It’s worth recalling the glee with which many hacks determined that the Obama presidency was over before the second term had really kicked in, well, only a month ago. The Healthcare.gov fiasco was Katrina; the Syrian pivot was a disastrous wobble; the Iran negotiations were abject surrender; the economy was going nowhere. And it’s not as if there weren’t good reasons for the punditocracy’s sudden lunge for the presidential jugular. The botched website launch remains a pretty unforgivable product of presidential negligence.
But it’s worth digesting how all these alleged disasters have settled down. Obama’s alleged surrender to Putin on Syria … has led to something no one really believed possible: a potential shut-down of Syria’s WMD potential. What Bush failed to do in Iraq (because Saddam’s WMDs were a fantasy), Obama has almost succeeded in doing in Syria – with Putin’s help. The Iran negotiations – far from being a surrender – have set the stage for a real rapprochement. Les Gelb notes:
The Obama team has won the first round on the six-month agreement with Iran by a knockout. The phony, misleading, and dishonest arguments against the pact just didn’t hold up to the reality of the text. As night follows day, the mob of opponents didn’t consider surrender, not for a second. Instead, they trained their media howitzers on the future, the next and more permanent agreement, you know, the one that has yet to be negotiated.
Even George Will has conceded as much. There is a chance that the Middle East, far from exploding in another spasm, is actually safer today than in recent times. Netanyahu’s worst instincts have been rather coolly checked. The reactionary forces in Iran are on the defensive. Kerry has in no way given up on a two-state solution on his watch. And today, we got a glimpse of a much stronger economy than most were expecting, and the disastrous website … has been patched up as promised (with, of course, some ways to go). Alec McGillis sums it up:
The bungled healthcare.gov Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October.
Paul Ryan and Patty Murray inched toward a modest budget agreement. This morning came a remarkably solid jobs report, showing 203,000 new positions created in November, the unemployment rate falling to 7 percent for the first time in five years, and the labor force participation rate ticking back upward. Meanwhile, the administration’s push for a historic nuclear settlement with Iran continued apace.
All of these developments are tenuous. The Web site’s back-end troubles could still pose big problems (though word is they are rapidly improving, too) and the delay in getting the site up working leaves little time to meet enrollment goals. Job growth could easily stutter out again. The Iran deal could founder amid resistance from Congress or our allies. Still, it seems safe to say that the Obama presidency is not, in fact, over and done with.
Far from it. The filibuster has been tamed, and the courts freed from total obstruction. The GOP remains utterly devoid of any constructive alternative to Obamacare, whose losers have been far less vocal – so far – than the winners. The president is on the offensive – on economic inequality and healthcare. It’s far too soon to project anything certain. But what we sure can say is that a huge amount is still to play for.