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What a four years it's been. Back in 2008, after two terms of George W. Bush, I felt overtaken by an impulse to want to upend the entire system and to undo the wrongs of the Aught decade. Hillary Clinton seemed to me to be the pugilist needed to egt the job done but when it became clear that she would not be selected, I learned to start liking Obama. Clinton apparently came to the same conclusion and she has been one of the most effective members of her administration.
Still, I went kicking and screaming. Obama and his campaign warned those of us on the left of mainstream not to expect too, too much. While it's easy to fool yourself into thinking of those warnings as just words, it's probably the reality that Obama's moderation is genuine.
Which, of course, makes it so frustrating to seem him smeared as some sort of American Che Guevara.
I know I've said this before, but it seems to me that Obama's take on America is that it needs to be repaired, not rebuilt from the ground up. If you're me, you kind of suspect that the car is totaled and that any cosmetic work you do to the bent frame is not going to last. He doesn't see it that way.
Reasonable people can disagree.
I do think that he's doing more good than harm. There are a few things I disagreed with him about that I still disagree with him about. They mostly have to do with health care and homeland security. On health care, I'll concede that my desires might have been impractical. On homeland security, I think a lighter touch is now in order, but I understand why no president will take the risk.
Now, here are some things I've decided I was wrong about over the course of Obama's first term:
I didn't support the auto bailouts because to me, an auto company CEO is no better than a Wall Street CEO. But, looking back I realize that Obama's administration designed the auto bailouts while the Wall Street bailouts were initiated by Bush. Had Obama's auto solution been applied to Wall Street, fewer bank executives would have kept their cushy jobs. Though I still think it's a travesty that GM's former CEO got his golden parachute on the way out, the auto bailouts did preserve jobs, as promised and the executives were not so unjustly enriched as I feared (most of them were booted).
Libya. Never thought I'd say that, but my Iraq/Afghanistan war aversion got the best of me. Obama built a coalition and executed very well. In the end, it served justice. I'll be more humble in my critiques of his decisions in Syria, for sure.
Joe Biden. I didn't like him at first. He's won me over.
Drone operations. I'd put this as "in progress." I am coming around to the idea that they beat the alternatives for a lot of obvious reasons.
Those are all pretty big things. And, of course, there's a lot that I think that Obama has done right (killing bin Laden, cutting the payroll tax, making a go of green energy research...)
He's a smart guy, but he's going to have to compromise with some hard headed people on the other side if he gets his second term. I notice that he has so far resisted calls from centrist commentators to make something like Simpson-Bowles the centerpiece of his re-election campaign. I take that as a positive sign. No matter who wins the election I suspect it will be on all of us to immediately raise awareness about the long-term flaws of that plan and why it must be stopped.
Maybe Obama will even have our backs on that.