It's been nearly a year and the common opinion is that President Obama has gotten little done and failed to deliver on any of his promises. Of course it's unrealistic to expect he would in only a year. It took Bush eight years to right and fully screw this country over inside and out. So we should wait for at least Obama's second State of the Union address before assessing him as a president. He has yet even to deliver his first (due this January). So let's not be premature.
Nevertheless, I was buying into the zeitgeist myself until I read some recent articles that really exposed the lie: most of the mainstream media is outright ignoring dozens of things Obama has accomplished, and downplaying the rest with biased terminology like "dithering" (to sane people, it's called careful deliberation) or with biased depictions of his actions as aloof or accommodating (actions the rest of us rightly call bipartisanship, which all those same people actually claim to want, yet when they get it, they condemn it as "accommodating" or "aloof").
The problem is now so well described by a few journalists and editorials, you simply have to read them. I was first put on to an article by Mark Morford for SF Gate, "Obama, the Great Disappointment? The Miracle President Hasn't Actually Accomplished Much? Wrong." That humorous take in turn led me to two articles, which led me to a third, all three of which chronicle an impressive list of achievements for a president who still has yet to end his first year in office:
Dr. Robert Watson lists at the Daily Kos "90 Accomplishments of President Obama Which The Media Fails to Report...." Though over half the items on his list are weak tea (things that might have happened anyway or that haven't been fully seen to fruition yet), still at least half (some forty or more accomplishments) are very significant and certainly warrant more attention than the media has given, and are certainly more than I know any other president to have done so quickly. Basically, Obama has had his hands so full getting sh*t done that he hasn't had time to get the sh*t done that this or that idiocrat wants him to. So they bitch about his failure to please them, ignoring what he has done in the meantime. Another list of accomplishments, often overlapping Watson's yet still adding more that even Watson left out, is provided by the Democratic Underground: "What Your President has Accomplished Just 6 Months into His First Term."
I'm particularly encouraged by his reinstitution (finally!) of Al Gore's government reinvention program, which during the eight years of the Clinton administration actually reduced the net cost of the federal government by billions of dollars, and greatly reduced paperwork and red tape at all agencies, increasing efficiency across the board, an incredible accomplishment, in part making it possible for our nation to actually begin generating annual revenue surpluses rather than deficits, a trend decisively reversed under Bush as the reinvention program was outright canceled and runaway spending let loose once again. Notably, the media completely ignored that accomplishment, too, and most people don't even know it happened. Obama's reintroduction of it may well be the most important thing he has done this year, even more important than passing federal health care reform, despite all the attention the latter gets. His economic policy in general also trends closer to Clinton's, which is good news, because it worked for us before (see The Clinton Presidency: Historic Economic Growth). We won't know until the economic collapse under Bush is finally weathered out (which typically requires two years from any crash, so watch where things start heading in mid-2010).
I plugged Gore's reinvention program in Sense and Goodness without God citing Gore's From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less (1993) and Osborne's Reinventing Government (1992), but I could also have mentioned Gore's Best Kept Secrets in Government (1996), Kettl & DiIulio's independent appraisal in Inside the Reinvention Machine (1995), Osborne's further analysis in Banishing Bureaucracy (1996), The Reinventor's Fieldbook (2000), and The Price of Government (2004), as well as Popovich's Creating High Performance Government Organizations (1998) and Ingraham, Thompson, & Sanders' Transforming Government (1998), among many more good, solid, real-world studies. Obama shows signs of going in the same direction. Hopefully he'll carry through. But we won't see results to measure by for several more years.
In broader strokes the same point is made (that Obama has actually gotten a lot done) by Jacob Weisberg for Slate.com, "Obama's Brilliant First Year: By January, he will have accomplished more than any first-year president since Franklin Roosevelt." He actually comes to that conclusion for the wrong reasons, but the conclusion appears to be correct nevertheless. For why, I was led by commentators on the Watson piece to find a good article by John Richardson for Esquire, "Whaddaya Mean Obama Hasn't Done Anything?," which gives a tighter list of important achievements that leads to the proper conclusion that Obama has done quite a great deal of real substance. (Oh, sorry to distract you with a picture of Katy Perry from a recent issue of Esquire...I meant to post some serious and relevant cover of Esquire Magazine and this just popped in by accident...dear me, how ever did that happen? Hey, now! I'm sure she has deep thoughts about politics)
Inspired by these articles, I then hunted down what else I could find, and there are additions and worthwhile commentaries to include in the same analysis: Albert Hunt for The New York Times, "Obama Throws Critics by Sticking to His Word," is well worth reading. And for a really neat "promise check" list, see PolitiFact.com's The Obameter: Tracking Obama's Campaign Promises (for the sub-list of promises already kept, which is remarkably long, clocking in at almost sixty so far, see: Promises Kept). Notably, for how he's done on what some judge to be the his top 25 promises, see Top 25: all have been kept (a few with compromises), or are in process of being kept. Only one is stalled (immigration reform, probably shelved for now because health care is more important and is the battle he has picked to fight with the GOP this year), and only one has actually been broken: the promise not to hire lobbyists (which was an unrealistic promise to begin with, although it would be nice to see it made law, as that would change everyone's career decisions from here on out). (In all, Obamameter finds only seven Broken Promises, one of them trivial and diplomatically justified, another beyond his control, and three that could still be kept if achieved in future years)
So let it not be said that he isn't getting anything done. Considering the tremendous and irrational opposition he is facing from the GOP, which tries to tank and stall every single thing he tries to do, his achievements are actually quite remarkable. I may not agree with everything he does or has done. But it's a far sight better than everything Bush did. So I can only hope he keeps this pace up every subsequent year he serves.