President Barack Obama is probably the best president America has ever had
After listening to the debate of prospective presidential candidates, from the Democratic and Republican parties, one can’t fail to notice the stark difference in their leadership styles with the present incumbent. President Obama presents a dignified image, a vision backed with impeccable integrity coupled with great communication skills. Perhaps, these qualities are enough to set him apart from the aspiring candidates.
Although, it would be too early to assess his performance as the president, since he will be demitting from his position in January 2017. Regardless, one can’t resist the temptation of revealing a scorecard of his achievements and failures during his two terms tenure.
Obama’s inclusive approach
One of the significant contributions of Obama has been his inclusive policy. He always stood for the rights of blacks, Muslims and other minorities. Obama’s visit to a mosque in Baltimore can be considered a bold move; keeping in mind the recent vitriol against the Muslim community. In spite of being called a Muslim on repeated occasions – due to his middle name being Hussein – Obama has managed to assuage the feelings of Muslims in an increasingly anti-Muslim environment. Earlier, he had also defended the Sikhs when they were subjected to hate crimes.
Obama’s ‘mixed’ foreign policy
Obama can be considered to be a votary of peace. It is known that he wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, a move welcomed by many. Though the troops continue to remain in the region, Obama claims that it’s merely to train and advise the Afghan forces, and also ensure that any remnants of al Qaeda are prevented from posing a threat to US security.
"As Commander in Chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again." —@POTUS
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) October 15, 2015
The president knows that the battles against terrorist forces can’t be won on the ground; rather it goes beyond that, an example being his decision to withdraw the US troops from Iraq. Obama had quickly learnt from the earlier mistakes made by George Bush, who had invaded Iraq on the ground that Iraq had possessed weapons of mass destruction, which later proved to be an incorrect assessment. The invasion not only proved counterproductive, but severely dented the US image.
In the case of Iran, the nation was treading on a dangerous course of becoming a nuclear power, Obama used a strategy of engaging with them rather than isolating them. His efforts paid off with Iran agreeing to defer its nuclear programme for another 15 to 20 years. It was a win-win situation for both the countries and a sound demonstration of Obama’s successful leadership.
Many of the European countries have already shown their willingness to do business with Iran. India and Pakistan have also followed suit, as they stand to benefit by fostering economic relations with Iran for fulfilling their energy requirements.
Obama also ended American alienation of Cuba by restoring diplomatic ties. This will set Cuba on the path of growth and consequently benefit the US with less Cuban immigrants and possible future economic affiliation with Cuba.
Obama has however, not been able to conceptualise an effective strategy in dealing with Kim Jong-un. He could have persuaded China to prevent North Korea from going nuclear, but in hindsight we feel that China would have failed in its efforts to influence Kim Jong Un, thus, it was wise to not make a move. Obama further kept his involvement at the minimum in the case of annexation of Crimea by Russia, adding to his paraphernalia of being in the non-aligned mode.
Although Obama’s foreign policy failures far outweigh his successes, one must keep in mind that it’s unfair to ask a leader to solve all global issues and then hold him accountable for not having done it all. As Ross Douthat, in an article published in the New York Times, succinctly put it:
“In a world that’s necessarily beyond an American president’s control, even the wisest choices can lead to disappointing results.”
The US economy
The economic downturn Obama inherited from President Bush was formidable with the US facing one of the worst financial crises: high debt, growing deficit, huge unemployment, financial institutions on the brink of collapse, collapse of housing market, etc. His economic policies gave a strong impetus with bailout packages for banks, tax increases on the wealthiest Americans and investment in several public services projects like infrastructure, health care reform, education, that has lifted the economy from the quagmire it found itself in before his presidency. Today, the US economy has recovered with the national unemployment figures showing a downward trend. Also, Obama’s contribution to healthcare, by enacting the Affordable Care Act, has been praiseworthy. He has worked tirelessly in bringing down the cost of prescription drugs and making hospital care more affordable to the lower middle class.
As Obama’s tenure comes to a close, history will perceive him as one of the most balanced and inclusive presidents the US has ever had. He is leaving behind a legacy that will be difficult for his successors to emulate, let alone surpass.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.