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Is Biden Already a Better President Than Obama? I Think So

I do not derive any great pleasure in criticizing Barack Obama, even though I am still upset at the Democratic campaign of 2008, which Obama should have stayed out of, maybe gotten the VP slot under Hillary, or looked to 2016 to follow her. That campaign almost upsets me as much as 2016. But I would think, on the limited evidence I have, that Obama is a good person, who cares; and he certainly loves his impressive wife and daughters. That is very commendable, but unfortunately is not enough, though we wish it were.

Seeing a bit of President Biden yesterday, as he went to Pennsylvania to answer questions from the citizens about the Covid Relief Bill, caused me to make an immediate comparison between him and Obama as President, as early as it is in his tenure. Of course the times are different; and the situations are comparable in some ways, but not in others; and of course Biden and all of us had to have learned from what happened in 2009-2017. Even so, the difference is striking. And I wonder how much it now appears that Obama failed to do many of the most important things required during his presidency.

I have psychologically blocked some of it all out, I think, and it is too dreary to research at this point. So please correct me or add, if I missed something, or misstated it. But we can start with the fact that Obama came into office for a populace which was very much tired of the GW Bush tenure, and very much wanting the government to deal with the massive economic and housing crisis caused by letting laissez-faire economics run wild. Obama had won the election handily at the end, due primarily to the housing market collapse coming two months before the election; and he came in with a strong majority in the House, and 55 senators, which we have never come close to since then.

But Obama came in apparently seeing himself as someone who transcended party politics, He kept talking about how there were no red states and no blue states. I know that some of his most fervent supporters seemed to see him as a combination of Jesus, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy. Maybe he did, too, or at least some of them. He started this early in the primary campaign, saying that it was the Republican Party which had most of the good (or maybe he just said, “big”) ideas of the last thirty years. Later in his tenure, he kept trying to work on a “grand bargain,” which would cut Social Security and Medicare to some extent, in exchange for Republicans raising the corporate tax rates.

We needed a stimulus package, and we got one, but many smart economists thought it was too small. Obama of course met resistance from Republicans, so seemed eager enough to settle for the lesser package, which slowed the recovery, and helped to cause the electoral debacle of 2010.

Then he focused all of his attention not on a group of items, including immigration reform, climate change legislation, gun control legislation, but solely on healthcare reform. Riverdaughter understands all of this issue much better than I do, so I won’t dwell on it, other than that Obama’s plan had no public option, and was always inferior to Hillary’s plan. It also seemed that he made too many accommodations to the health insurance industry. What he ended up with was better than what we had, but was not as good as it should have been. And then it was rolled out poorly, people could not easily sign up, and there was a lot of negative publicity for a year or two.

All of this resulted in the rise of the Tea Party, and what he termed “a shellacking” in the 2010 elections. It must also be pointed out that as far as I knew, Obama managed to have the campaign donations primarily sent to him. and not to the DSCC or DCCC. And many of our congressional candidates did not even want him to campaign with them, because he was not popular in their states.

The result of losing about 68 House seats was that the Republicans controlled the House. We also lost Senate seats, and had a slim majority. We lost a bunch of governorships, and state legislatures, which really ushered in the Far Right takeover of states, with the resultant gerrymandering. All of this was not Obama’s fault, but much of it was. An important part of being President is that you are also the head of your party, and your voters count on you to keep them in power. But he could not.

And of course, not getting as much legislation through as possible during those first 20 months, meant that it was then going to be futile to get anything significant through, and he did not for the rest of his six years in office. The rest of his tenure involved foreign relations, which are important, plus judicial appointments, a few executive orders, and then some touching and heartfelt speeches which he made after dreadful gun violence. But he could not get any bills through to deal with that, or the climate crisis.

And then we had the “game of chicken” which got played between him and the House Republicans, where they would threaten to not raise the debt ceiling, and he would eventually have to cut some kind of a deal with them. One time, he said something about being held hostage.

Then after winning the presidency again in 2012, he could not keep the Senate, and McConnell took over, making sure that no Democratic legislation would ever get to the floor; and blocking hundreds of lower court judicial appointments, which he managed to keep open until a Republican was supposedly elected in 2016. I didn’t see President Obama doing anything about that, such as redlining appropriations to certain red states. McConnell had even as Minority Leader managed to block many judicial appointments via the filibuster, which finally Majority Leader Reid had to get rid of, with regard to lower court judicial appointments, to at least get some judges approved, though I do not remember Obama saying much about any of this.

And then we got to 2016. And the immensely crucial swing seat on the Supreme Court needed to be filled. Obama chose Merrick Garland, highly qualified, maybe somewhat moderate, but Obama was said to believe that this is what the country needed. But McConnell simply refused to bring the nomination to the floor, because he knew that Garland would be approved. And what did Obama do about this? Nothing. What could he have done; well I will leave that to hypothesis, but he was still the President, still had a good favorability rating, and also had the power to cut off much demanded funding projects pushed by McConnell and other Republican senators who might be up for election. He could have made a monumental issue of this obstruction, which I think was unconstitutional, but he did not. I suppose he thought that Hillary would win, but that is not sufficient excuse. This was almost all or nothing, and he essentially let McConnell have his way.

Then, finally, the Russian interference. about which he was being briefed by his intelligence agencies. This was a grave danger to the election, and our democracy. The story which came out, from some pretty responsible sources, was that President Obama wanted to make a joint statement about this with the Republican leaders, and McConnnell not only refused, but told him that if he did, he would contend that Obama was trying to interfere with the election. So he said nothing at all publicly, and the election interference was massive and insidious, and Trump was handed the election, with all of the consequences of that.

I think that Obama did about the minimum possible with an eight-year tenure, and that he wasted immense and crucial opportunities, because of his non-political nature, and his protection of his own image. Yet historians still rank him highly at least they did a few years ago. Higher than Bill Clinton who I think was absolutely a better president. Not as high a rating as Ronald Reagan got, though, which might show the biases of that poll.

So here we are in 2021, and President Biden is acting as if he has to run a full-speed race to get as much done as possible, before Republicans might gain three House seats. and/or one Senate seat, and thus lose majority control, which would surely lead to them obstructing absolutely everything, which is appalling but it’s what they do. He has gotten the Covid Relief Bill passed, with the help of Pelosi and Schumer. HR1 got through the House, and he must somehow figure out a way to get rid of the filibuster, even if two Democratic senators foolishly want to hold on to it He will try to get an infrastructure bill passed. and to somehow try to combat global warming. He also has spoken about no red states. no blue states, which I don’t agree with, but he has redefined bipartisanship as meaning popularity among the electorate , not the members of Congress He is trying to do something important every day, and he seems to have appointed a very admirable group of cabinet members and other officials not that Obama and of course Clinton did not have some of those, too.

I am sure that Biden will do some things that will disappoint or upset me. But right now, he is doing a very impressive job, and this gives me more hope, despite the many dangers and Republican plots out there, than I may have had during the entire Obama Administration.