Since he has put it so much better than I likely could, I am honored to share a piece by my colleague at Americas Debate, Drewyorktimes
In principle, I think Obama's policies have been almost disappointingly centrist: all a series of rote prescriptions on fiscal-triple-dose authored by a president who is either powerless or disinclined to persuade the country in a new direction.
It's only that the scale of his accomplishments (?) have been huge, drastic. His achievements churn the stomach, no matter how sensible the printed content is.
TARP, for example, was a continuation if also a magnification of Bush-era policy towards the fiscal meltdown... almost every respected economist who doesn't make his living manufacturing commotion on TV backed TARP, its timing, and size. But then you fathom of the size of it -- the number of schools, military convoys, bullet trains, tax cuts, biomass plants, or farm subsidies it could have paid for -- and it's hard not to come away disdaining it, no matter what one's political persuasion.
The stimulus, despite fetching a 360 degree 0 votes from the Republican aisle was a pretty hohum, 70-year-old consensus remedy to the onset of recession. A third of it was tax cuts, and even more was if you count what states did with the money. The total sum was not just less than what liberal economists offered -- it was less than the kind of grand visions of electric cars passing solar power plants and nuclear reactors envisioned by Obama's own campaign. There may be much to question in terms of how it was constructed -- too little money up front, not targeted on job creation, etc -- but it's hard to argue against the general, centrist principle of such a stimulus in the face of downturn. Also hard: to say that it was some democratic dream bill... if it was, a.) we'd be seeing those frickin bullet trains and five-floor high schools we liberals are always yacking about, b.) it would have been some big, bulking, new deal bill with tents all up and down the TVA.
Then his Health Care, which was essentially the Bob Dole-led Republican plan of 1993. Seriously, take a look at this graphic: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Graphics/2...comparison.aspx
But again, the size and compexity of it was just ugly -- it's so hard to defend this bill, this giant, trillion dollar untested excursion into one-swoop legislation, even if you recognize that it will broadly improve the health and lifespan of Americans.
In Afghanistan, the president picked a path so centrist I wonder if it was even worth it to continue. An additional 30,000 troops, which was the perfect x between what the military was willing to applaud and what doves were willing to stomach, doesn't seem to have accomplished anything but illustrating our inability to catch a breakthrough there. Worse: Obama didn't sell this extension. He made one speech at West Point, then acted like America's hope was invested in the outcome. Americans don't have their eyes hearts or heads on what happens in Afghanistan. That's why we will lose.
Going forward, any cap and trade bill will almost certainly be more mushy and watered down than what John McCain and his wife Joe Lieberman proposed in 2003, if it even gets passed at all. From what I gathered, his immigration reform 'principles' didn't seem to differ too much from those reforms proposed by Bush that led to the split in his party, with the less moderate voices eventually taking charge of the party.
So no major change he's effected has been, to my mind, controversial in principle: It's all pretty, mild-mannered and Clintonicious, really, something like the 1st term Billary never had. But I think the scale of it all, against an economy that is yielding no slack to the governments plans, make Obama appear simultaneously impotent and yet somehow capable of undermining the fabric of America.
To my mind, he hasn't given us a new liberal vision, a direction we're moving in. What happened to "the hands that work can put solar panels on roof or something?" Seriously? I'm struggling to remember why we voted for him. Obama the person and thinker who I admire very much aside, there were some issues there... ending wars, re-establishing America's image, revitalizing the manufacturing base by priming the hi-tech pump, and yes, health care. But where is the overall push, the "this is where I'm going to take you america, though it won't be easy" speech? What is the America Obama sees for 2016? Is it an America with a ground 0 mosque, for example, or is it just some wishy washy statement about how the mosque could constitutionally be built, but the wisdom is for someone else to sort out. Come on, Obama, it's like... give us something to defend and feel proud of. If he's going to do immigration reform, for example... why not own it? Spend every day telling America that this is a country of many colors and republic assertions that there is a a "mainstream america" are not just insulting, they minimize America's greatness. Give us more than policy, give us principles. I think this is what people complain about when they complain that he doesn't emote. The jobs reports have been bad, the wars have gone worse, China just became the number two economy and may be number one within 4 years after Obama packs out of the white house... we lost the olympics, Iran is going to go Nuclear, north korea is acting like we don't have battleships in the west pacific, Cuba is compromising nothing while we relax restriction after restriction... I could go on... America is a twitchy place and it needs that grand presence of a leader: a Lincoln, not a legislator.
I respect Obama's consistency to a point, but after the mid-terms he is going to have to seriously re-consider what he thinks his public role is. So far, I think he has been a consequential -- and, in his willingness to achieve unpopular goals that he thinks are right, perhaps admirable -- one-term president. If he wants to be a transformational, two term president who leaves the body politic with a set of ideas that outlive him, he's going to have to break away from "oh, shucks" comments on issues like Mosques and medicare.
I'd argue he's passed more weight through congress more than Reagan and Bush I combined, but the day he departs DC, it will be hard to remember that he ever led us.