By George E. Curry
Almost as surprising as Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first African-American president is his success in not becoming a lame duck president, a term normally applied to a politically weakened outgoing president’s last two years in office.
Few presidents have been as lame as George W. Bush, who was largely dismissed in his last two years in office and so unpopular that Republicans did not want him to show up at the last Republican national convention of his tenure for fear of harming the GOP’s chances of winning the White House in 2008. Bush, acting as though he was in the federal witness protection program, didn’t appear, but that did not alter the outcome of the election.
Given the GOP’s extreme hostility toward Obama – with the open declaration by now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R-Kentucky] that his sole objective was to make Obama a one-term president – many expected Obama to be impotent as he limps out of office next year.
But they were in for a surprise as Obama transformed his campaign motto of “Yes, we can” to “Yes, we did.”
In the last year alone, Obama commuted the sentences of 46 prisoners incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, most of them drug related. He restored diplomatic relations with Cuba after a 50-year standoff, with each country reopening its embassy.
President Obama issued an executive order allowing the parents of children born in the U.S. to remain in this country. He extended abortion coverage to Peace Corps volunteers who became pregnant as a result of rape, incest or life endangerment. And his administration raised the qualification for receiving overtime pay from $23,660 to $50,440.
Obama scored a major victory when, in the face of heated Republican opposition, he joined five other world leaders in curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Practically all of the Republicans running for president and their echo chamber, Fox News, have misrepresented the terms of the deal.
MediaMatters, the media watchdog group, provides extensive documentation in debunking myths created by conservative detractors. Among the myths:
MYTH: Iran Deal Makes The U.S. And Israel Less Safe
FACT: Experts Laud ‘Excellent’ Deal That Deprives Iran Of Pathways To Build Bomb
MYTH: Deal Will Allow Iran To Have A Nuclear Weapon After It Expires
FACT: Iran Is ‘Permanently’ Bound By Curbs On Ability To Obtain Nuclear Weapon, Even After Some Provisions Expire
MYTH: Sanctions Relief Will Greatly Increase Iran’s Ability To Fund Terrorism
FACT: Experts Believe Iran Will Use Sanction Relief To Restart Economy, Say Terrorists Would Benefit More From Rejection Of Deal
MYTH: Secret Side Deal Allows Iran To Inspect Itself
FACT: Side Deal Concerns Only Past Activity At One Site – IAEA Has Ability To Ensure Iran’s Full Compliance With Long-Term Deal
Myth: Most Americans Don’t Support Terms Of Iran Deal
FACT: Majority Supports The Iran Deal When Its Terms Are Explained
Criticism of Obama by conservatives was not unexpected. But Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explains, “There’s a different story on the left, where you now find a significant number of critics decrying Obama as, to quote Cornel West, someone who ‘posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.’ They’re outraged that Wall Street hasn’t been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ‘neoliberal’ economic policies are still in place.”
But given Republican opposition to less ambitious goals presented by Obama, Krugman argues that Obama would have no success trying to advance such progressive ideals.
Krugman wrote recently in Rolling Stone magazine: “Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.
“His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.”
In a speech last October at Northwestern University, President Obama said he is proud of his accomplishments. He said, “When I took office, businesses were laying off 800,000 Americans a month. Today, our businesses are hiring 200,000 Americans a month. The unemployment rate has come down from a high of 10 percent in 2009, to 6.1 percent today. Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created 10 million new jobs; this is the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.
“Think about that … Right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001. All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.”
From January 2009 to April, Black unemployment had declined from 12.7 percent to 9.6 percent, a decrease of 3.1 percent. Not ideal, but not lame.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge, George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook, and Periscope. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.