The Obama Presidency: Prospective and Retrospective



With 2013 drawing to a close, Washington is abuzz with a two-part discussion: will 2014 be a better year for the Obama Presidency, and was 2013 the worst year so far for the Obama administration? President Obama shows optimism as the country prepares for 2014. “I firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America,” the President said in a press conference on Friday.

On Meet the Press this week, former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saw the potential for 2014. “I will say this. If the economy continues to grow as we saw it grow in the third-quarter at 4.1 percent, he might do that press conference with whiskey celebrating the fact that the economic boom has really come.”

However, his statements came after he said that 2013 was undoubtably the worst year so far. ”No doubt about it. I would say this is the worst year for the president,” Gibbs stated. “But — well, and especially given from where he started, the fact that the first year of his second term is historically the most productive of the second term.” New York Times columnist, David Brooks, agreed. “The big Obama project is to make government seem effective. And the healthcare rollout and even on the government shutdown, the government looked really ineffective this year.”

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post took the opposing side. “No, I think 2011 was the worst year. That’s when he had — it was weaker, had to give in to the Tea Party. We got the sequester. The change in the Civil War and the soul searching in the Republican Party is the biggest event of this year and that’s why 2014 could be a year of action as long as he makes Obamacare work.”

The negative perspective, for both 2013 and 2014, finds support in Obamacare, the President’s signature healthcare program. According to a recent Gallup poll, the law is seen both as President Obama’s biggest achievement (22 percent), and as his greatest failure (36 percent). Obamacare is viewed as the reason behind the President’s lagging poll numbers. In December, his approval/disapproval percentages by Gallup were at 40/53. Naysayers of the President also take comfort in an ambitious agenda that is seen as unfinished. In his 2013 State of the Union, President Obama outlined goals for domestic programs that included, among other things — gun control, immigration reform, growing the middle class, investing in education, climate change, tax reform, deficit reduction, investing in infrastructure, and strengthening jobs and manufacturing.

Immigration reform passed in the Senate over the summer, and has been languishing in the House of Representatives ever since, gun control was a non-starter issue, and Obamacare is a political talking point, with the right assured that the website failures are characteristic of larger issues, and Democrats say that with the passage of time, the hiccups will subside and support for the law will grow.

Politifact, a website that assesses the truthfulness of statements and tracks legislative progress, rates infrastructure as a “broken promise.” Part of Obama’s goal to invest in higher education, via tax credits, is “stalled.”

The economy may be Obama’s one bright spot, and the best place to start turning around his approval rating. In November, unemployment fell to 7 percent, the lowest it has been in five years. A bipartisan budget was passed, giving a level of security to the U.S. economy for two years, which also shows all hope may not be lost on compromise in Washington. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund also appeared on Meet the Press and presented an optimistic, economic outlook for the U.S. in 2014.

“There has been good action taken by congress to eliminate the fear about the budget and to reduce the sequestration,” Lagarde said. “We see the Fed having taken some very well communicated action concerning the tapering of the program, and those are good signs, in addition to which we see some good numbers. Growth is picking up and unemployment is going down. So all of that gives us a much stronger outlook for 2014, which brings us to raising our forecast.”

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