What did Obama do after he was president

Eight years of US president : What's left of Obama?

Suddenly many get nostalgic. Maybe Barack Obama's tenure wasn't that bad after all - especially when you see what's coming after him. More than 51 percent of Americans are satisfied with it and 45 percent are dissatisfied. A year ago it was the other way round: only 45 percent saw it as positive, 51 percent as negative.

In Germany, too, it was common a few months ago to take stock of his two terms in office: Obama as a politician who aroused great expectations, but then disappointed; whose speeches at first carried away, but which achieved little.

The initial enthusiasm cooled significantly by 2013 at the latest, when the NSA affair stirred emotions. The historical successes of the first term of office had already slipped from short-term memory. After his re-election in 2012, he succeeded in little significant, no reform of immigration law, no turnaround in energy and climate policy. The blockade between the Republican-ruled Congress and the White House shaped domestic politics. The fight over budget law was fought with the greatest severity up to the threatened "government shutdown", the dispute over immigration policy and the gun law with personal degradation.

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Even if he had walked across the water day after day, some would accuse him today: 'He can't even swim!'

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Syria, Iraq and Ukraine shaped Obama's foreign policy

In foreign policy, the advance of the IS militias in Syria and Iraq, the wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip shaped the image of a world power America, which lacks the will or the ability to intervene decisively. Hardly anyone asked whether such intervention attempts had any chance of success. And whether it was not wise to resist the military temptation because of the risk of being drawn into conflicts of indefinite duration. In addition, Obama would have broken one of his key election promises: to bring the troops home.

But how will Obama be judged from a greater distance in time? Will the mild outlook of autumn 2016 or the disappointment of autumn 2015 prevail in 2025 or 2030?

With increasing distance, posterity will probably see the eight years under Obama as a whole. The successes of the first two years will again emerge more clearly from the shadows of the paler later years. It is quite possible that historians will recognize an above-average president in “No.44”.

The first black US president achieved a lot in his first term in office

Obama is not alone a historical figure, because 232 years after its founding, the USA elected a president with darker skin for the first time.

He has achieved remarkable things: the health reform; the reform of financial supervision; two new female constitutional judges to the Supreme Court, including the first Latina; a new way of dealing with same-sex partnerships and homosexuals in the military; a major disarmament treaty with Russia for the scrapping of a third of strategic nuclear weapons, which justified the early award of the Nobel Peace Prize.

All of this happened in the first two years of office in 2009 and 2010. In addition, he led the USA out of the severe financial crisis to new growth and ended the massive deployment of American ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The negotiated solution to the nuclear conflict with Iran and the resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba are also among Obama's successes.

With a look back at the new years of change, of course, the enormous expectations that he had aroused during the election campaign come back into focus - and what has not been fulfilled. Racial conflicts and white police violence against black youth remained a painful wound under the first black president, as did mass shootings in schools, shopping malls and cinemas, without this having moved Congress to tighter control of arms sales. Above all, he could not keep his promise to overcome the division of America.

In terms of foreign policy, the lasting pacification of Afghanistan and Iraq failed after the withdrawal of US troops. Another Gaza war followed in the Middle East instead of the hoped-for efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East. The democratization of the Muslim world in the Arab Spring failed, as did the desired improvement in relations with Russia (Ukraine war) and Europe (NSA affair).

The US is far better off in 2016 than it was in 2008

However, these objections do not change the overall judgment: the USA is much better off at the end of the Obama presidency than at the beginning. In the fall of 2008, the USA suffered the worst financial and economic crisis in decades. Big investment banks, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, had collapsed. Two of the three largest US auto companies, General Motors and Chrysler, filed for bankruptcy. The unemployment rate rose and homes were foreclosed. With the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, popularly known as "Stimulus" for short, Obama initiated the turnaround in February 2009. America can look back on a successful comeback in November 2016. The economy is growing more dynamically than in other western industrialized countries. The unemployment rate, which climbed to more than ten percent during the crisis, is back below five percent. The US economy employs more people than ever before.

The turnaround is even more impressive when you look at other economic areas. Europe is stagnating and struggling with diverse challenges: the euro crisis, the Ukraine war, internal cohesion, mass migration. Russia is in a recession and largely isolated. China, which was trusted to overtake the USA as the leading economic power, unsettled with negative reports: stock market crashes, falling growth rates, explosions in factories and mines, environmental problems and social tensions.

Obama has laid the foundations for the US to remain the leading economic power for the time being. They dominate the digital economy, the future industry par excellence. Thanks to fracking, America has cheap energy and has made itself independent of imports. Despite some technical mistakes, the health reform is one of the turning points in America's social history, similar to the introduction of a state-organized basic pension (Social Security, since 1935) and health insurance for the elderly (Medicare, since 1965). Thanks to the tightening of financial supervision, the banks in the USA are now more resilient than the European ones.

The second term in office was more complicated in terms of power politics

After two years in office, there was a break in power politics. In the mid-term election in November 2010, the Democrats lost their dominant position in Congress. In America, a tough power struggle began between the two camps, accompanied by a dispute over who was to blame for the blockade. In theory, constructive parliamentary resolutions would still have been possible; To do this, moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans would only have had to join forces and, as in the past, make compromises. But internal cohesion was more important to both parties. The sharper tone, of course, came from the "Tea Party". On several occasions, the government has come to the brink of insolvency - not because the US lacked the money, but because the Republicans prevented a decision on a budget.

In Germany and Europe, the lack of understanding about the USA grew again, paired with disappointment with Obama. After George W. Bush, America again had a president with whom one could identify. But those strange US voters punished him with defeat. And he was unable to avert it.

Different perspectives came to light. Americans first saw Obama as a domestic president. He should save them from losing their jobs and being foreclosed. He had inherited the crisis from Bush, but the longer he ruled, the more it became the Obama recession. Most Germans and Europeans wanted to see Obama as a global president who would correct what screwed up Bush.

Has Obama achieved too little - or changed too much too quickly?

Up until the 2010 midterm election, which was fateful for him, Obama had achieved some success. But at the same time, approval for him had fallen: to 45 percent on election day. There are two possible interpretations of this Obama paradox - a decline in reputation despite political successes. However, they contradict each other. America's left says: Obama has raised high hopes, but only partially fulfilled them. Its reforms have been watered down under pressure from Republicans and lobby groups. Hence the bad poll numbers. This interpretation was also common in Europe. Obama, the wimp who wanted the right thing but didn't deliver enough.

The majority in the US and the relevant media there saw it differently: Obama had changed too much too quickly. He might have good reasons; the financial crisis and recession forced him to act. However, the citizens were already unsettled. They looked for support in the usual order. But he wanted to turn everything upside down: health insurance, tax rates, energy policy and much more. Obama was lucky that he got off lightly because conservative forces slowed him down.

The loss of the Congress majority forced a new strategy: daily new struggles for public opinion. US MPs have to pay more attention to which side has the sympathy for the budget dispute, tax rates or gun law. They want to be re-elected and there is no party list coverage.

In 2012, the voters had to be convinced - and then again and again the Republicans

The campaign for the view of the citizens instead of legislative projects dominated Obama's agenda in 2011 and 2012, because re-election now became the most pressing goal. An African American's first choice shouldn't go down in history as a fallacy or an "industrial accident." Another victory would also be a guarantee that a Republican president would not undo the reforms of the first Obama term in office. The re-election was even more impressive than was to be expected in the last few weeks of the election campaign with the disastrous first televised debate against Mitt Romney.

In the second term of office the crippling constellation of Democratic President and Republican Congress remained. The hope that the Republicans would show concession after the renewed defeat and, for example, support a reform of immigration law in order to score points with the Latinos, the minority who made the voting decisions, was not fulfilled. (See essay, p. 7)

Obama now shifted to pursuing his goals by decree. Of course, they are only permitted in areas in which the participation of the Congress is not required. And they're not sustainable. The next president can also override them by decree. For example, Obama banned the deportation of the children of illegal immigrants - and thus de facto the deportation of the entire family. In climate policy, he pushed through lower emissions for coal-fired power plants. In gun law, he tightened the requirements for the "background checks".

Obama's vision of the world was too optimistic

The US limits the term of office of a president to eight years. Obama was not allowed to run again in 2016. Nevertheless: what would his chances be and what balance would the voters draw? In foreign policy, the grades would be below average because of Syria and Russia's strengthening. Obama would get better grades than Bush, but worse than Ronald Reagan, who left office as the victor in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Even worse than Bill Clinton, whose tenure ended before 9/11, when America was still swelling in exhilaration that it was the only and indispensable world power.

Obama's vision of the world was too optimistic. The “Arab Spring” ended almost everywhere in violence and chaos (Libya, Syria, Iraq) or in a new military dictatorship (Egypt). Russia is once again an opponent and China a rival, pursuing economic interests on other continents but not assuming any responsibility as a regulatory power.

He would probably be re-elected now

Obama deserves credit in domestic and economic policy. Many Americans are frustrated that post-crisis growth rates will not be higher. But they appreciate the upturn. Obama has not overcome the ideological split, it has solidified. However, on the crucial questions of faith - tolerance towards homosexuals; Insight into the need for a reform of immigration law in favor of Latinos; the tax system in favor of the middle class; of gun law in the sense of stricter control of the acquisition of guns - Obama has shifted public opinion in his direction, even if the reforms fail him.

If the citizens had that choice, they would probably vote for Obama again in 2016. Certainly more so than for Donald Trump. And even better than for Hillary Clinton, who arouses little enthusiasm in her own party and sheer hatred among many Republican voters. From Obama remains: He did America good. And in any case no harm.

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