Good Obama, Bad Obama


A couple of days ago I said that Barack Obama had done more for the liberal agenda in two years than George Bush did for conservatives in eight. Today, Bruce Bartlett says that in practice Obama has “governed as a moderate conservative.” So who’s right?

Well, we both are. Let’s review the Obama record:

He passed a big stimulus bill…..but was too timid to make it as big as it needed to be.

He continued the pullout from Iraq…..but sent 50,000 more troops to Afghanistan, amped up the drone attacks in Pakistan, and committed the United States to yet another foreign war in Libya.

He ended torture…..but kept up the NSA surveillance program and military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees.

He passed a historic healthcare law…..but based it on conservative principles and failed to fight for a public option.

He ended DADT…..but continues to merely “evolve” on the subject of gay marriage.

He pressed hard for financial reform…..but proposed legislation that was too weak to make a serious difference

He called out bankers as fat cats…..but caved to banking interests on foreclosure cramdown.

He beefed up the NLRB…..but declined to fight hard for EFCA.

He got agreement on a second stimulus in 2010…..but agreed to construct it nearly entirely of tax cuts.

He supported cap-and-trade legislation…..but handled it so lamely that even Republican supporters finally turned on him.

I could go on like this forever, and I’m sure my readers can add a thousand bullet items like this in comments. The plain fact is that Obama has presided over a historic amount of liberal reform, but it’s also a plain fact that he’s routinely acceded to conservative dogma and conservative demands — sometimes as part of a compromise to get half a loaf, sometimes because he genuinely seems to sympathize with those demands.

It’s just not a simple record to characterize, and there’s always going to be plenty of ammunition for critics and supporters on both sides. You just have to decide which half of the list above is most important to you and then open fire.

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