President Obama’s Policies and Legacy – Success or Failure?

President Barack Obama

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Edited by: Martha G Zarate

Research Regulation Specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston,TX.



As President Barack Obama serves his final months in office, the world stage and his nation will attempt to evaluate all of his policies and mark his legacy as success or failure.

Was the Affordable Care Act a step forward or a step back? Did Obama’s policies improve the economy? Is Obama to blame for the Arab Spring’s failures? What about his strong stance to end the war at the beginning of his presidency? These among other Obama policies are in question and overall in time, history will yield the verdict. Naturally, opinion will be mixed, and in some cases, extremely polarized. Republicans deride the President for a large imagined set of failures. But Democrats are overstating their praises for the first black President of the United States of America.

President Barack Obama and the war:

President Barack Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush. With 7 months left before he vacates the White House, Mr. Obama passes a somber, little-noticed milestone. He has now been at war longer than Mr. George Bush, or any other American president. If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term — a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria — he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war. Granted, Mr. Obama is leaving far fewer soldiers in harm’s way — at least 4,087 in Iraq and 9,800 in Afghanistan — than the 200,000 troops he inherited from Mr. Bush in the two countries. But Mr. Obama has also approved strikes against terrorist groups in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, for a total of seven countries where his administration has taken military action.

On health reform: How can you tell if Obamacare is a success or failure?

A good place to start is with its official name: the “Affordable Care Act.” Measured against that, Obamacare is failing miserably. The promise of Obamacare wasn’t just that insurance would be cheaper. It was that health care would be more affordable. It’s an important distinction.

Insurance that doesn’t cover anything, strictly limits the doctors you can see, imposes fantastically high deductibles, or costs too much to buy, does nothing to improve access to health care. So far, that’s all Obamacare has delivered. Premiums are sky high and deductibles for a Bronze plan average more than $5,000. To keep costs down, insurers skimp on provider networks, making it more likely patients will end up paying out of pocket for care they need. The result is that, despite the hundreds of billions in insurance subsidies, health care isn’t any more affordable today than it was before Obamacare. That failure is made clear by a new Gallup survey, which finds that, as Obamacare enters its third year, 31% of Americans say they or their family members put off treatments because of high costs. Others more like tend to agree Obama’s success has been on health care, by passing comprehensive reform, he did what Bill Clinton failed to do and what Democrats had spent decades trying to accomplish. But through the Affordable Care Act is a huge success in many ways, with millions of Americans newly insured and all people are able to get coverage regardless of their health history.

On economy policies:

President Obama has a hard time owning up to his failures. He has constantly shifted the narrative during his presidency to twist facts in his favor. The Daily Caller reported: “Over the first five years of Obama’s presidency, the U.S. economy grew more slowly than during any five-year period since just after the end of World War II, averaging less than 1.3 percent per year. If we leave out the sharp recession of 1945-46 following World War II, Obama

looks even worse, ranking dead last among all presidents since 1932. No other president since the Great Depression has presided over such a steadily poor rate of economic growth during his first five years in office. This slow growth should not be a surprise in light of the policies this administration has pursued.” President Obama has been on a victory tour of late giving the New York Times this statement, “Anyone who thinks America is not better off than it was seven years ago, “ is not telling the truth”. He also said, “we probably managed this better than any large economy on Earth in modern history.” For the millions of Americans struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck, sadly, that is not their reality.

President Barack Obama and the Arab Spring:

President Barack Obama squarely tackles this opponents on the criticism about his foreign policy by claiming, “We didn’t trigger the Arab Spring” defeating his policy in Egypt, Libya and Syria during the regional pro-democracy uprising that began in 2010. The president said he felt he had made the right call in Egypt, preventing a massacre by pushing Dictator Hosni Mubarak to step down after days of massive protests. In unusually honest language, Obama stood by his decision to prevent Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi from killing thousands of his own people by establishing a no-fly zone, but admitted the U.S. and its partners in Libya should have worked quicker to establish a democratic replacement. And he reiterated his opposition to brutal Syrian president Bashar Assad, whom some — including a handful of American observers — describe as an ally against the extremist Islamic State group despite his de facto support for it. Truth is, the Arab Spring has so far produced, anarchy in Libya, a civil war in Syria, greater autocracy in Bahrain and resumed dictatorial rule in Egypt. In the end, the Arab Spring gave us, ISIS too. Everything that caused the Arab Spring is still there. The old elites, bloated bureaucracies, Islamist activism, police states, repression, economic stagnation, and a lot of the same.

Obama’s biggest failing in the Arab Spring is not that he chose the wrong side; it is that he has waffled back and forth. Bush did too much, Obama did too little. He has been consistently indecisive, irresolute and reluctant to act. As a result he has alienated both regimes and revolutionaries, and squandered U.S. leverage.

In favor of the Arab Spring accomplishment with or without Obama’s success is the age of presidents-for-life and complete lack of political accountability has come to a close. In some Arab countries, politicians have begun showing a willingness to step down when the public demands accountability or in order to uphold rule of law or simply to avoid looking like the autocrats who had been angrily overthrown. In response to a public outcry, Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh did so in early January in favor of a technocratic cabinet, which could be expected to fairly oversee new parliamentary elections. It was the first voluntary civilian succession in the country’s history.


President Barack Obama’s policies and legacy will clearly hold a place in the history books. But what will be verdict on his legacy be? Successes or failures? Depending on who you ask and their points of view, the outcome will vary. High on the President’s list of successes would be the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden. Another major success or failure is the creation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. On the fail side for others will be, the growth of ISIS and a “failed” Middle East foreign policy that has left nations like Libya and Syria in disarray. In time, history will let us know for ourselves that the 44th President of the United States had both successes and failures as any other predecessors.

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