Going into his sixth year as President, Obama was beginning to enjoy a steady improvement in employment figures. And his approval rating would climb steadily, from 42 percent during the November 2014 elections to 57 percent in January 2017, while economic growth would be less than spectacular: 2.4 percent for 2015 and 1.6 percent in 2016.
In his final State of the Union address in January 2016, Obama spoke of circumstances that burdened Americans:
Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top. All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs, even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start their careers, tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.He spoke also of accomplishments, and he would return to this subject in his final press conference more than a year later (16 December 2016) claiming:
As I was preparing to take office, the unemployment rate was on its way to 10 percent. Today, it’s at 4.6 percent, the lowest in nearly a decade. We’ve seen the longest streak of job growth on record, and wages have grown faster over the past few years than at any time in the past 40. When I came into office, 44 million people were uninsured. Today, we’ve covered more than 20 million of them. For the first time in our history, more than 90 percent of Americans are insured. We’ve cut our dependence on foreign oil by more than half, doubled production of renewable energy, enacted the most sweeping reforms since FDR to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from punishing Main Street ever again. None of these actions stifled growth, as critics predicted. Instead, the stock market has nearly tripled. Since I signed Obamacare into law, our businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs. Through diplomacy, we’ve ensured that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon – without going to war with Iran. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by nearly two-thirds.
(Regarding the deficit claim, measured by the $1.2 trillion deficit that he inherited from President Bush, Obama's deficit reduction was closer to one-half rather than two-thirds — an accomplishment nevertheless.)
Obama would be credited by supporters with other accomplishments. Time magazine credited him with "record investments in education initiatives, environmental research, industrial modernization and, most famously, health-care reform" and having "poured money into basic medical and scientific research." (time.com)
Some believed that Obama should be credited with allowing as many as 5 million people living in the US illegally to avoid deportation and receive work permits — in other words DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
There was what some call his reversal "unjust and outdated prison sentences" by commuting the sentences of nearly 1200 drug offenders."
The historian Ramona Houston has online a list of 244 accomplishments of President Obama. Obama is praised for having saved the US auto industry, improving the fuel efficiency standards for cars, signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, ending Washington's approval of torture, for having signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act, having signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to combat pay discrimination against women, on and on, including his Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." He supported the expansion of embryonic stem cell research leading to groundbreaking work in areas including spinal injury treatment and cancer.
GOP.com asks people to described President "Obama's biggest failure," and the replies include:
Forcing government-controlled health care on Americans. Vetoing the Keystone XL Pipeline. Ignoring the Constitution by issuing executive actions on immigration. Implementing burdensome regulations that hurt job creators and prevent economic growth.
A more scholarly critique came from the website of Foreign Policy magazine, an article written on January 18, 2017, titled "Barack Obama Was a Foreign-Policy Failure." It lauded Obama for his intelligence but missed an opportunity "to abandon the failed strategy of liberal hegemony that the United States had been pursuing since the end of the Cold War... in the end Obama never broke with that familiar but failed approach. The result was a legacy of foreign-policy missteps that helped propel Donald Trump into the White House."
The article described Obama and his team misreading and mishandling the Arab Spring:
As Joshua Landis explains in a remarkable, must-read interview, the U.S. response to these events — and especially Syria — was ill-conceived from the very start.
The author, Stephen M Walt didn't care Obama's handling of the Israel-Palestine problem, and he wrote that "Obama's handling of Russia deserves no plaudits either." But he wrote favorably of Obama's character:
No matter how petty or two-faced his opponents were, Obama rarely paid them back in kind. One suspects Americans will appreciate these qualities even more as Trump’s egomaniacal circus act wears thin and his plutocratic policies leave his working-class supporters out in the cold.
Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.