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Taking Stock Of The Obama Presidency

On his way out the door, when most second term presidents are pouring over design details for their  libraries, Barack Obama is still hard at work. In this photo, the president walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
On his way out the door, when most second term presidents are pouring over design details for their libraries, Barack Obama is still hard at work. In this photo, the president walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
This article is more than 6 years old.

Now that we officially have 2016 presidential candidates from both major parties, we can start sizing up the Obama years in earnest. Breaking down barriers is never easy. As a general rule, being the “first” rarely translates into being the “best.” For example, you need a Jackie Robinson before you can have a Hank Aaron. Charlie Sifford must come before Tiger Woods. Jack Johnson before Muhammad Ali. Barack Obama may be a rare exception to that rule. But before descending into hagiography, here are Obama's top three worst moments:

1) Looking the other way while millions of homeowners drowned in red ink created, with troubling impunity, by Wall Street bankers who — to this day — still profit handsomely from their perfidy. That was a low point.

2) Trashing Edward Snowden for the crime of telling America the truth, while the president's NSA and CIA directors were flat out lying to U.S. senators — on national TV. Not good.

Sooner or later even his harshest critics will have to grudgingly admit that Barack Obama was considerably more than simply America's first black president.

3) Giving up on simple background checks — even after so many innocent children were murdered in Newtown, and then blaming American voters for congressional inaction. Don’t get me started.

Now on to the plus side.

Here is an American politician — with the middle name Hussein, no less — who managed to get himself elected president not once but twice, with handsome majorities both times. I can still remember when his out-of-nowhere campaign surged past Hillary Clinton, the prohibitive favorite, in 2008. At the time, a '60s-era liberal friend of mine observed with astonishment, “Apparently they haven’t noticed he’s black.”

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During Obama's stewardship, despite being relentlessly vilified as a job killing communist, he added more than 12 million private sector jobs to a U.S. economy that was in complete free-fall when he took office. In the process, he managed to cut the jobless rate nearly in half — to 5.5 percent. And far from crippling American businesses, he has presided over a 200 percent increase in the S&P 500. In fact, on his watch, corporations are healthier than ever.

Obama accomplished all of this while knocking annual deficits down to roughly a third of what they were only a few months after he took office. Oh, and did I mention he brought affordable health care to 16.5 million previously uninsured Americans while at the same time reducing the projected overall cost of health care for everybody else?

Yeah. That too. And with absolutely no help from a Congress that had to be dragged along kicking and screaming every step of the way — making Truman’s famous “Do Nothing Congress” seem like a model of legislative productivity.

The Obama foreign policy doctrine has been an unqualified success — if only measured by the trillions of dollars we did not squander pointlessly, and the thousands of young American lives we did not lose needlessly.

By the way, just one of these noteworthy accomplishments would be considered a proud legacy for any other president. Taken together, they represent a truly astonishing record of achievement. And he's not done yet.

On his way out the door, when most second term presidents are poring over design details for their libraries, Obama is instead rewriting the rules of relevancy down the home stretch. The press can barely keep up with his breakneck pace. In just the last few months he has:

1) Protected millions of undocumented parents of children that were born in the United States from sudden deportation.

2) Stopped big Internet service providers from price gouging small Internet startups.

3) Offered free community college to every qualified low-income student in the country

4) Reversed a half-century of failed foreign policy by proposing trade with Cuba and peace with Iran.

Let's face it. That's a pretty impressive litany. For a guy whose nickname is “No Drama Obama,” this duck is anything but lame.

If Hillary does become the first woman elected president of the United States, and is even half as successful as Obama, it may be a very long time before America sends another white male to White House.

Plus, he can sing a song and tell a joke better than most of his predecessors, and his wife and kids have set a new standard for First Family Cool. Sooner or later even his harshest critics will have to grudgingly admit that Barack Obama was considerably more than simply America's first black president. He will be a tough act to follow.

Which brings me back to Hillary Clinton. She certainly had her cross to bear as first lady. Yet she became the first, first lady ever elected to the U.S. Senate — from a state she never lived in — and did a pretty good job to boot. And who could have predicted that after her bare knuckle brawl with Barack Obama in '08, he’d go and make her the secretary of state, where she also performed admirably.

If Hillary does become the first woman elected president of the United States, and is even half as successful as Obama, it may be a very long time before America sends another white male to White House.

How great would that be?

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Nick Paleologos Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Nick Paleologos is a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and a two-time Tony Award winning producer.

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