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The Obama Presidency: A Report Card

The Obama Presidency: A Report Card


President Obama’s leadership elicited mixed feelings within American citizen and globally during the course of his two terms (Hacker& Pierson, 2011). The Keynote speech of 2004 set out his path to this much coveted position leading to the unexpected success story of being the first African American president. His Persona, interest in politics, prize winning speeches and ability to attract both the white votes and the minority voters was his biggest ticket as well as his ability to draw the working class to his bid(Tesler & Sears. 2010). One of the common phrases he used was, “We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and the stripes and all of us defending united states of America” to show that his leadership did not intend to favour the black population.

In examining the performance of the president however, there are a number of questions that many people have sought to answer among them the qualities that Obama brought to the presidency, the challenges experienced by a liberal democrat, his take on public opinion and lastly his major successes and failures. Below is a review of Paul Krugman’s article, “In Defence of Obama” and the PBS analysis titled, “Inside the Obama Presidency”.

Review of P. Krugman’s article

Paul Krugman who is a Nobel laureate and a New York Times columnist is known for his support of Obama’s leadership upon unveiling the article “in defence of Obama”. In his article, he goes into detail of the changes that the president has effected in a number of areas and compares him widely to his predecessors(Krugman, 2012). According to this article, he states that amid bitter opposition and numerous likelihoods of self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the greatest presidents that America has ever had. Some of the qualities that Krugman identifies about Obama include, his ability to shape the future, to make things happen and to encourage and engage fresh talent. In addition, he portrays President Obama as a man that has built the new generation by showing the youth the importance of investing on themselves and their ideologies.

With regard to the everyday struggles of a liberal democrat, Paul Krugman sympathizes with Obama as he has faced criticisms on a number of decisions that he passed despite bitter opposition(Theodoridis, 2012). However, he congratulates him because many democrats have had the ability to secure seats in numerous republican strongholds. In addition, Krugman identifies that in the course of his term, he managed to secure majority of the seats in congress. Despite all this, Krugman agrees that Obama was not big on Public opinion and in most cases made decisions based on his own intuition(Krugman, 2008). A good example is the battle between him and the members of the Republican Party concerning the economic management strategy that Krugman believes eventually became a great policy.

Paul Krugman also looks at some of the achievements and failures of Barrack Obama’s leadership looking particularly at the health reform, the financial reform, the environmental policy, the economic management strategy and the overall change in the country(Krugman, 2012).To begin with, Krugman identifies the health reform as imperfect and that it could be better, but at the same time acknowledges that there is so much improvement. This is in reference to the extended health insurance of up to 4 million to middle class children and the 4.6 billion dollars set aside for the expansion of veterans’ administration and care in metal health among others. Making this policy was a huge step and to some extent faces challenges but has worked better than most people expected.

In the economic field, Krugman identifies some of the numerous changes that Obama has made with particular reference to the stimulus bill that seemed to have pulled America’s economy from the edge of collapsing. The economic policy having been one of the most contested one seems to have borne fruits and also worked very much better that the pre-existing ones. The financial reform that was also anticipated to create a huge change fell short of the expectations but was not all unsuccessful as it still put America at the front line of global competition.

Moreover, with regard to the environmental policy, Krugman identifies it as one of the initiatives most likely to put his mark in history. This is because it has put endangered species on the map as well as the secured the environmental Protection Administration’s Authority to limit climate change among others(Hacker & Pierson, 2012). Similarly, thanks to his team and his support system to which Krugman refers to as the backbone behind the takeover by the democrats, the good direction of the presidency is once again ascertained. Overall Krugman believed that the best way to evaluate a president is by analysing whether what has been done is enough to create long lasting change and a promise for the future. It is clear that he believes that Obama has done this significantly, hence marking him as one of the able presidents of the state of America.

Review of PBS’s “Inside the Obama Presidency”

This program is of a different view of Obama’s leadership as it examines the inside accounts of the President’s experiences, decisions, wrangles with the Republicans and fellow Democrats after the first term. The storyline here talks of the first four years of the president and the changes that he brought with regard to healthcare, economy and the increase in killing of enemies(Smith, 2012). The reason for the contrast between this program and the article by Krugman is mainly because it analyzes the differences between the man that took office with promises of hope and unity and the legacy left after the first term. Overall, the article is a collection of some of the darkest and painful secrets of politics and governance in Washington today.

To begin with, the first issue was the president’s failure to head advice or listen to the opinion of those that mattered. Looking at the economic stimulus brought forward by Barrack Obama, this program explains that after the win, he took the package intended to kick start the economy to the republicans who were not very supportive of the idea. This explains how the battle began and despite the unexpected success, how the President ignored the opinions and issues voiced by the republicans(Smith, 2012). In addition to this, “inside the Obama’s Presidency”, shows further how the president resorted to move forward with the health care reform once more despite the opposition and the advice of the advisors(PBS, 2013). Passing this reform was time consuming and costly as it took close to a year to be deliberated upon , and the accumulation of other issues such as growing of other movements to fight terrorism.

The change from a hopeful and unifying president to a dictator is the second issue raised by the program. Upon the failure of a deal that would save the country’s finances, President Obama was devastated hence affecting his decision making while carrying out his second campaign trail. In the article, one of the speakers called The Atlanticexplains that Obama looked like a “Chess master” in the campaigns but revealed that at the end, he was a mere pawn. In his words, “…a guy who got lucky as a campaigner but is now pushed around by political opponents and economic trends that overwhelm him(PBS, 2013).” This shows therefore, there were a number of people that were giving up on him and had lost faith in his ability to lead.

Another issue in the program was the disregard of the constitutional way of doing things by Obama, contrary to the practices of many other leaders before him. Todd Purdum, another individual expresses that with the Obama’s leadership, there was a sheer growth in the federal government, a paralyzed congress due to majority seats by the democrats and a form of systematic corruption. In addition to this, the program shows that people were of the view that there was blatant disregard of the facts and truths in many ways making Washington a dysfunctional place.

Generally, Obama’s utter disregard of public opinions as explained by Jane Mayers shows that in some cases, Obama was reluctant to stand for photographs besides big democratic donors among some of the necessary appearances (PBS, 2013). This is but one scenario that focuses on the issue of humility which the document concludes in emphasizing as important if he is to vie for another term. In addition, the program encourages that he ought to mend fences with the democrats to the extent that they can make deals together to boost up the functions of the congress and the wellbeing of the country.


It is evident that the Paul Krugman’s article and the program by PBS emulate two completely different sides of the president’s leadership. The article, “In defense of Obama,” focuses on the good qualities of the president such as the ability to think of the future, stand on his feet, to fight for what he believes and to encourage new talent. This has enabled him to develop health, economic, environmental and financial stability to some extent. On the other hand, the program, “Inside the Obama Presidency,” differs with this analysis and indulges deeper into the daily activities of the president. Here, issues with regard to the collapsing of the congress opinion, manifestation of his pride and lack of humility, his poor decision making techniques and the dissatisfaction of the citizens is highlighted. Overall, each aspect is both critically and to some extent truthfully addressed as it concerns Obama’s eight year presidential term.


Hacker, J. S., & Pierson, P. (2011). Winner-take-all politics: How Washington made the rich richer—and turned its back on the middle class. Simon and Schuster.

Hacker, J. S., & Pierson, P. (2012). Winner-take-all politics. Link TV.

Krugman, P. (2008). The Obama Agenda. New York Times, 7.

Krugman, P. (2012) ‘In Defence of Obama’,Rolling Stone; Fallows Obama Explained The Atlantic; R. Rosen ‘The Obamacare’ Challenge to American Individualism’’, Open Democracy.

Micklethwait, J., & Wooldridge, A. (2005). The right nation: Why America is different. Penguin UK.

P.B.S (2013). Frontline ‘Inside the Obama Presidency’,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swfIxgOqXv8

Smith, H. (2012). Who stole the American dream?. Random House Incorporated.

Tesler, M., & Sears, D. O. (2010). Is the Obama Presidency Post Racial? Evidence from his First Year in Office. In Annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. Chicago, Ill.

Theodoridis, A. G. (2012). Party Identity in Political Cognition (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley).