There are many particular achievements of Pres. Obama that I applaud. I will get to some of them in the next few posts. But I want to note, first, that I believe the president has had a clear, politically realistic vision from the outset, which he has been amazingly successful at achieving.
I believe the big goal that Barack Obama set for himself from the beginning of his campaign for president was to finally, finally, achieve universal health insurance. This has been the dream of the whole middle and left of the political spectrum since the New Deal. Many presidents, Republicans and Democrats, have failed in this great attempt, sunk by insurance and drug companies. The Clinton administration, under what should have been ideal conditions, failed spectacularly.
When Obama set out on this great quest for universal health insurance, he knew it would take all of his political capital. He knew he would have to make big compromises, in his own party as much as with the opposition. And on top of the huge task passing universal health insurance, he had to save the entire economy.
The biggest constraint the Pres. Obama administration faced was that they only had two years to do nearly every important thing on their agenda. When Democrats won big in the 2008 election it was clear to me that they would lose the lose big in the 2010 midterms. This usually happens to the incumbent party, even in the best of times. Add a massive recession and the most intransigent opposition since the Wilson administration, and the midterms would probably stop nearly all progress.
In fact, the Obama administration, working with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, managed the most successful Hundred Days since FDR. And that made possible the great push for the health care bill. Obamacare - a term that began as an insult, but will, I think, become one of the greatest terms of praise of the president - is a huge step forward. I don't like all the compromises that had to be made to pass it, but I appreciate that it was necessary for the president to make compromises. Barack Obama is a masterful politician - I trust his judgment about which rat parts needed to go into the sausage.
Pres. Obama knew that he had until the end of the 111th Congress to pass most of what he would be able to pass in his first term. And he did, right up to the budget compromise at the end.
Barack Obama is a great player of the long chess game of governance.