Obama creating his legacy

In his last two years, however, the same Obama is emerging as a statesman

Dr Pervez Tahir August 13, 2015
The writer is currently visiting Department of Economics, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA pervez.tahir@tribune.com.pk

A number of recent initiatives taken by US President Barack Obama show that he is no longer the extra careful first black occupant of the White House. His first term was viewed as lacklustre and one that was long on speeches. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize that he received in 2009 raised many eyebrows. His re-election for the second term was clinically routine.

In his last two years, however, the same Obama is emerging as a statesman. The Iran nuclear deal was unthinkable, opposed not only by the Republicans but also by important Democrats. It will, most likely, impact his party’s bid to retain the presidency and to gain another first — a first woman president after the first black president. Obama has made it very clear that he would veto any rejection of the nuclear deal by Congress. While the Republican majority in Congress can ensure a rejection, it will require support from Democrats to muster the two-thirds of votes needed to vacate the veto. The challenge for Obama is to rally his own party around him.

In the area of foreign policy, the thaw with Cuba is another major piece of legacy. The far-reaching changes that occurred after the end of the Cold War bypassed Cuba. A superpower refused to recognise the existence of a tiny neighbour and treated it as a threat to its national security. Obama has put an end to this anachronism.

Of far-reaching global consequence is the announcement of the Clean Power Policy ahead of the climate change moot in December in Paris. It commits the US to cut emissions by 32 per cent, effectively saying goodbye to the use of coal as a source of power. This would put tremendous pressure on China and other large emitters.

Domestically, Obama is beginning to take a strong position against the all-powerful gun lobby. Obamacare, his affordable health initiative launched despite opposition from conservatives, is demonstrating significant success in improving the health sector. This is an area where Bill Clinton had failed miserably. Tax cuts for low-income and lower middle class families and higher taxes imposed on the well-to-do, as well as measures taken for greater participation in the labour force are no mean achievements. He has also beaten conservative opposition squarely in extending civil rights. The US prison population is among the largest in the world. Obama became the first president to have visited a prison, as he deliberates on introducing fundamental reforms in the justice system. A large number of prisoners were sentenced to lengthy terms for minor crimes, overcrowding American prisons. It is estimated that the year 2050 will mark the end of racial imbalances in the population of the US. The extremist views being aired in the ongoing presidential election campaign are attempts to hold back that prospect. Obama’s actions have set the agenda for immigration reform.

These recent successes have led to a re-evaluation of his first term as well. US governments are not known for pulling forces out of foreign countries unless a defeat becomes imminent. Obama pulled thousands of troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, despite dire warnings from pundits regarding such a strategy. He was able to withstand the international financial crisis by activating the role of the state in a country where its presence in most spheres of the economy and society is viewed as an encroachment on fundamental rights. His interventionist policies of demand creation prevented the Great Recession from developing into the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economy has returned to a state where there is job creation. What Paul Krugman describes as Obama’s “failure to fail” is really the creation of a lasting legacy.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th,  2015.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.



Parvez | 8 years ago | Reply Correctly said...Obama in his second term with Cuba, China and putting Israel in its place, is certainly earning the Nobel Peace prize given in haste in his first term. It seems that a President / or Prime Minister performs when the burden of ' getting elected ' is lifted off his shoulders and he has a conscience and a legacy to worry about.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ