Evidence can't be ignored: It's been a disaster

Little more than a year into his presidency, Obama's luster is tarnished by a dismal record
Charles Dharapak/AP Photo
President Barack Obama listens to a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 27, 2010.

President Obama's core supporters, though increasingly lonely, are no less convinced of his greatness a year-plus into his presidency.


The problem is, like a writer to The Chronicle's Rants & Raves on Thursday, they're hanging their hats on the indisputable glory of his breakthrough election in 2008 -- not on what he's done or not done since.

Supporters claim his critics just can't get over his election; in truth, it's his supporters who need to move on, as the rest of us have.

A dispassionate review of the president's actual record -- not emotions for or against him -- is what we should judge him by, and what historians absolutely will weigh.

We should all want a functional and well-working Washington. That could only help the rest of America recover and rebuild from the collapse of 2008. Thus, it should give no one pleasure, and it gives us none, to find that Mr. Obama has been every bit of a disaster as the gulf oil spill.

More so, really, since it looks like the oil spill will likely be capped well within four years.

Mr. Obama's performance has ranged from the feckless to the negligent. On every issue of great import, and even those of little consequence, the president has either performed at a minimally adequate level or has failed utterly. Mostly the latter.

His most significant achievement, without question, is the health-care reform bill. Remarkably, though, a Rasmussen Reports poll earlier this month found that a jaw-dropping 63 percent of Americans support a quick repeal of the bill. In other words, nearly two-thirds of the nation wants to undo Mr. Obama's crowning achievement.

We're not sure how much more you need to know about his presidency than that.

Beyond that, though, Mr. Obama's best performance area seems to be in the area of the larger economy -- if you believe the president is responsible for it. There are green shoots that indicate an economy on the mend, along with consumer confidence, though growth did slow in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2009.

Again, it's likely presidents are given too much credit and blame, both, for the broader economy. But to be charitable, give him a "C" on the economy.

THE ATTENDANT problem, however, is that the jobs aren't following. Unemployment remains at 9.9 percent; the administration itself argued that without its massive stimulus package last year, unemployment would soar to 8 percent; and yet, with the stimulus, we still hit 10 percent unemployment.

By his own measurement, then, you'd have to give the president an "F" on jobs.

ON IMMIGRATION, the president and his Cabinet have criticized an Arizona law that is clearly constitutional -- and without having read it. He has ignored pleas for help from border states, only recently announcing plans to dribble out 1,200 National Guardsmen, roundly criticized as far short of what's needed.

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had to warn Texas authorities of a Somali terrorist preparing to cross the border from Mexico -- as have, reportedly, hundreds of other Somali terrorists.

In fairness, Mr. Obama did not create the border problem, and his predecessor was just as much of a disaster on the issue. But Obama is president now, and he certainly hasn't fixed it; and his belligerent attitude toward Arizona -- and his agreement with the Mexican president that Arizona is only being racist -- may actually be hurting the cause. Give him a solid "F."

IN A RELATED subject, Mr. Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's clumsy handling of terrorists is becoming legendary. They've got officials reading international terrorists their Miranda rights. What next? Drunk tests? Seat belt citations? And with each new Muslim terrorist attack, they seem utterly incredulous that the perpetrators aren't acting alone and might be motivated by radical Islam. Their plan to try key 9-11 suspects in a civilian courtroom in New York was met with a national firestorm of fury. Mr. Obama's bending over backward to the Muslim world seems not to have slowed the attacks in any way. And his ballyhooed plan to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay last January seems no closer to fruition than it did on inauguration day.

Is there anything below "F"?

MR. OBAMA'S handling of the gulf oil spill aftermath is rightly being called his "Katrina" -- although, to be fair to his predecessor, the perception of a slow federal response to that hurricane came after the disaster, not during it, as Mr. Obama's inept and hands-off performance has been in the oil spill. Even his biggest fans on the liberal left have assailed him, including commentators Chris Matthews and James Carville.

"These people are crying," Democratic consultant Carville said. "They're begging for something down here. And it just looks like he's not involved in this."

Speaking to commentator David Gergen, CNN's Anderson Cooper recalled Gergen saying that "if we fought World War II with the same kind of attitude and energy with which the government is fighting this (oil spill), a lot of us would be speaking German."

"Do you still believe that?" Cooper asked Gergen.

"I believe it more deeply today than I did yesterday, Anderson," Gergen said.

"I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill," writes columnist Peggy Noonan, who calls it his third political disaster after health care and immigration.

He's done nothing to slow Iranian designs on nuclear weapons. A CNNMoney.com story says of the president's huge debt-busting stimulus bill, "economists think the government's stimulus package and jobs bill had little to do with the rebound." Syrian President Bashar Assad said last week that the U.S. has lost influence in the Mideast under Obama, after he "raised hopes" and proceeded to accomplish nothing of substance.

Even on small matters, Mr. Obama has been bumbling -- prematurely lashing out at Cambridge police for their arrest of a black professor, for instance, while admitting he didn't know the facts. And Las Vegas officials can't count the cost of Obama's public admonition not to travel there.

Only one year-plus into a four-year term, Mr. Obama has time to turn things around. It will take an admission on his part that he doesn't have all the answers, as he seems to believe. And it will take a willingness to truly listen.

Meanwhile, a shrinking 26 percent of Americans strongly believe he's doing a good job.

Absolutely all evidence to the contrary.