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Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine just penned a terrific piece that Obama supporters and detractors alike ought to read: The Case for Obama: Why He Is a Great President. Yes, Great. The value of the piece is not in its ability or aim to change independents' or undecided voters' minds. Instead, the piece is valuable as a salient exploration of Obama's first term through a temperamentally sober prism, sans toxic political charge.  It gives us a peek at how Obama will be viewed through history's long-term lens, which is what makes this piece fascinating on its own merit.

"I never experienced a kind of emotional response to his candidacy.  Nothing Obama did or said ever made me well up with tears."

A few of the opening paragraphs make the case for a sort of general reason to view Obama's first term favorably, in particular as a result of his underrated-but-no-less-felt assault on crude, old, irrational economic principles:
Possibly for that same reason, I have never felt even a bit of the crushing sense of disappointment that at various times has enveloped so many Obama voters. I supported Obama because I judged him to have a keen analytical mind, grasping both the possibilities and the limits of activist government, and possessed of excellent communicative talents. I thought he would nudge government policy in an incrementally better direction. I consider his presidency an overwhelming success.


Obama’s résumé of accomplishments is broad and deep, running the gamut from economic to social to foreign policy. The general thrust of his reforms, especially in economic policy, has been a combination of politically radical and ideologically moderate. The combination has confused liberals into thinking of Obamaism as a series of sad half-measures, and conservatives to deem it socialism, but the truth is neither. Obama’s agenda has generally hewed to the consensus of mainstream economists and policy experts. What makes the agenda radical is that, historically, vast realms of policy had been shaped by special interests for their own benefit. Plans to rationalize those things, to write laws that make sense, molder on think-tank shelves for years, even generations. They are often boring. But then Obama, in a frenetic burst of activity, made many of them happen all at once.

As someone fairly unacquainted with the nation's financial infrastructure, I find it helpful to know that Obama pushed for something as un-sexy as "financial reform" in the manner he did.  It also sounds like many economists had waved the white flag, resigned to the notion that their economic ideas would forever fester in an endless academic whirlpool rather than flourish in public policy proper.  Yes, billionaires have done better under Obama than practically anybody else, but the long-term effect of Obama's brusque reforms will eventually be felt by middle America, which we feel Obama had in mind all along.  And that's just for starters.

"It is noteworthy that four of the best decisions that Obama made during his presidency ran against the advice of much of his own administration."

Numerous Democrats in Congress and the White House urged him to throw in the towel on health-care reform, but he was one of very few voices in his administration determined to see it through.
Chait continues on to describe the ways in which four of Obama's biggest achievements were fraught with political peril and/or behests from supporters to abandon those pursuits, but Obama pushed them through anyway: healthcare, the auto bailout, Libya, and Bin Laden.  This is the kind of leadership, the kind of trust, that no amount of tax-havened money can buy.  

Contrast this with a would-be president who eschews the truth, who flirts with facades amidst disaster, who waffles and equivocates his way through simple questions, who believes we answer to him rather than the reverse, who does not observe simple rules of decorousness, who panders to the worst of human nature every chance he gets, and who laughs in the face of facts in order to advance his own perverse prerogatives.

You could not possibly have a starker choice in front of you; those who think "There's No Difference Between Them" ought to take a good look in the mirror, since there's no difference between not voting at all and voting for Romney.

"Romney would probably kill his grandest achievement, so any evaluation of Obama’s term before the election must be provisional."

This is a poignant point, made all the more visceral in light of an article I read yesterday of a highly successful woman finding herself suddenly in need of emergency healthcare–and her change of heart when Obamacare was there to help save her.  Nonetheless, Chait's piece finishes by lending inarguable justice to Obama's presidential mettle, come what may:
What can be said without equivocation is that Obama has proven himself morally, intellectually, temperamentally, and strategically. In my lifetime, or my parents’, he is easily the best president. On his own terms, and not merely as a contrast to an unacceptable alternative, he overwhelmingly deserves reelection.
I overwhelmingly agree:  Barack Obama is a great President.  Lest you be on the wrong side of history, and on the wrong side of what is good for our country, don't sit this one out.

Originally posted to therehastobeaway on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 09:25 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Federation.


Barack Obama is

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