The first anniversary of Barack Obama


One year ago, I was in attendance at the closing rally of the Obama campaign, where close to 100,000 supporters packed the Prince William fairgrounds in Manassas, Virginia. As the participants left the grounds, there was an almost Zen-like atmosphere. Few doubted that the next day, November 4, 2008, their fellow Americans would for the first time pick an African-American to be their president. The question was no longer when, but by how big a margin? The Obama-Biden ticket swept into power with 365 Electoral College votes to 173 for the McCain-Palin ticket, garnering 53% of the popular vote in the process. It was a clear mandate and the best popular vote performance by a Democrat since LBJ in 1964. Particularly interesting were Obama’s victories in key southern states such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. By the eve of his inauguration, the president-elect was riding high in the polls, hitting a plateau with a 65% approval rating. Obama had not yet begun his first year in office and it had become obvious that the eyes of the world were on this new president.

Since then, America has witnessed quite possibly the most exciting presidential entrance since the Camelot days of JFK in 1960. From the outset, it was clear the new president wanted to hit the ground running. In order to do so, he would have to assemble a diverse and select team that included his main primaries rival, Hillary Clinton, respected Republicans like Defence Secretary Bob Gates and General James Jones, who took over as National Security advisor, and Clinton stalwarts like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner. Vice-President Biden was given a premier role as principal counsellor. Add to this a stellar White House staff led by Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs, and all expectations were that this would indeed be a team that could make Obama’s a truly transformational presidency. Hopes were high back then and change was in the air. A year later, however, Americans are not as enthralled with their charismatic president.

Obama wasted no time acting quickly on Guantanamo and the issue of torture, followed by a significant address in Cairo to the Muslim world. He put in motion key initiatives in hotspots like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. On the economy, Obama got Congressional approval for the biggest stimulus package in history and proceeded to increase government support to key financial institutions and the auto industry. Facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, it became evident that Obama would have to be audacious to prevent disaster. Most economists now maintain the financial abyss was avoided, but the economy remains fragile and the jobless rate is flirting with 10%. The last quarter showed a 3.5% growth rate, but it was largely the product of government-inspired spending. Still, the threat of doomsday scenarios has receded. At the same time, Obama established four legislative priorities: health care reform, new financial regulations, changes to energy policy, and a focus on climate change. Finally, the Obama administration has adopted student-centric reforms in education which have attracted bipartisan support. His approval rating is down from the inaugural period, but remains a respectable 52%. Americans may be divided on the policy directions of their new president, but they seem to maintain their confidence in him.

This being said, there are legitimate concerns about the style and the direction of Obama’s policies. The left is impatient and feels the White House will not deliver significant healthcare reform unless it includes a public option. On gay rights, some activists are openly critical of the president’s go-slow approach. And on Afghanistan, Obama will likely opt for greater involvement, to the displeasure of the more militant faction of his left-wing base. Recent polls also show Obama has lost significant support among independents who now make up the largest electoral group in the nation. This can be attributed to the slow recovery of the economy, the increases to the government’s deficit and debt, and the uncertainty surrounding Obama’s real intentions on healthcare. Some critics within his own party complain that Obama is prolonging the shelf-life of Bush-inspired policies and others feel that his cautious and incremental style is not quite what they expected or what they voted for.

Obama has shown that campaigning and governing are two different realities. To some, he may seem to be tackling too many issues and spreading himself too thin. With government involvement growing under his watch, the hope among conservatives and the Republican party is that people will reject his agenda as too ambitious and out of step with the mood of America. This has led right-wing commentators to suggest Obama is vulnerable and could lose control of Congress to the GOP in 2010, and become a one term president. But Obama is usually at his most surprising most when his detractors begin to write his obituary. He is extraordinarily resilient and resourceful. If he succeeds in getting meaningful healthcare reform within his first year in office, makes some progress in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, and the economy continues to show signs of revival, then it will not be surprising to see Obama climb in the polls.

With the first anniversary of Obama now approaching, we are seeing a leader who is far from flawless, but has the capacity for growth. We see a leader who, while appealing to the liberal end of the ideological spectrum, is far more complex than a simple ideologue. He has demonstrated a penchant for compromise in a polarized political world and shown a capacity to face adversity with aplomb. Cool and cerebral, he is a pragmatist able to stir crowds of followers while at the same time appealing to uncommitted voters. On the campaign trail, Obama was both sure of himself and audacious. In office, he has been more deliberate, but seems as resolute as ever to achieving his goals. The enthusiasm that brought him to power may have waned if we judge by the election results in Virginia and New Jersey, and he will soon have to assume greater responsibility for the economy and the wars he inherited. But, despite the setbacks, Obama has brought an air of optimism to politics in America and the world with the promise of a transformational presidency.


The first anniversary of Barack Obama

  1. Aaaand cue the haters… 5… 4… 3… 2…

    • Only secular leftists have hate as part of their politcal pysche TJ, that's because for many of them politics has replaced religion, and has become an absolute. They then hate those who don't accept their political-religious assumptions which is more than a political viewpoint, it's a worldview and it's total.

      I don't hate Obama, indeed he's rather a likeable fellow. I just think he's misguided, terribly misguided in fact. Having a misguided socialist leading the free world in these highly uncertain economic times not to mention the foreign policy challenges faced by the western world at this juncture is most unfortunate. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't mess it up too badly. He will mess up, that's a foregone conclusion. The only thing that is unclear is the extent that he will.

      My solace is that we only have 3 more years of this, and three years goes by pretty fast. After the mid-terms next year, I'm assuming we'll have some additional checks and balances with Republican gains, particularly in the Senate.

      • Only secular leftists have hate as part of their politcal pysche

        That's quite possibly the silliest thing I've read today.


  2. "The First Anniversary of Barack Obama"? Parisella's blog has gotten like reading some sort of satire of a limo-riding, champagne-sipping, wide-eyed and breathy Hollywood liberal. "The first anniversary of Obama now approaching". But John, when does anniversary of Obama approach in any given year? Is it like right after Halloween, the Christmas decorations go up in stores – only now, as this post suggests, the Obama anniversary memorabilia and tributes start pouring in at the same time, and with a similarly increasing intensity until Obama anniversary eve? For that matter, what is the Obama anniversary? His inauguration? Election?The day he was elected to the Senate? His birthday? His wedding anniversary? What about the anniversary of when he visited Canada? Parisella's posts are actually a symptom of the malady which they purport to diagnose, namely, the hyper-partisanship and cloistered worldviews which characterize American politics. Parisella's posts are expressed in different language, but they're so laughably gushing, myopic, and exhibit such tunnel vision and thereby exhibit such implicit contempt anything from outside Parisella's small little liberal island of Obama anniversaries that they serve as a sad omen for the future of politics, if they're taking as any more seriously than the latest political ramblings from, say, Pink on the middle east or the Jonas Brothers on whatever. In fact, I'm quite certain you'll find more critical thought and engagement with the outside world on a Jonas Brothers fan board than in a Parisella post.

    • TJ was right and the first hater is Alex!

    • Did you read Parisella's last post?

      '' In the long term, however, it is less certain that his (President Bush's) presidency will be seen in such a negative light.''

      Is that what you call a '' hyper-partisanship and cloistered worldview'' ?
      I would prefer calling it an ''opinion''. Ever heard of that?

      • Opinions are worthless in the absence of thoughtful analysis. Parisella has none. Just hagiography.

  3. Is noting that the vast gulf between how Obama presented himself to the electorate and how he's actually governing, is widening every day…


    How fitting then is it that one of the bigger dissappointments is his employing Chicago style attack politics and demonizing dissent (like the "hate" suggestion above) while just a few months ago promising the precise opposite.

    I've mentioned before the bellweathers of Virginia and NJ, and it seems to be panning out.

    And so, while Obama and his surrogates telegraph their fear by suggesting Dem losses in those races mean little (as they did today) Obama has been feverishly campaigning there.

    Hope and change.

    • I'm pretty sure TJ means "haters" in a "haters vs. playa's" sense, so yes, he means you, but no, that's not really "hate" in the sense that you mean.

      Of course, if only we could all focus on hating the game…

      • "one of the bigger dissappointments is his employing Chicago style attack politics"

        I'm not disappointed.

      • Word, yo.

        • That was Mike T., reporting from 1985.


  4. I don't see what any of this should have to do with being for or against Obama, let alone "hating" him. I was/am all for him. But Parisella's posts are just laughable, and would be silly if they weren't a symptom of the disease that they're claiming that Obama is curing, as I said above. Many of Parisella's posts really do read like a kind of satire of a what a "limousine liberal" or "champagne socialist" or teenage pop star on politics would sound like. The problem isn't Obama. The problem is this kind of breathless, hagiographic, hyper-insulated and uber-condescending fluff parading as political analysis.

    • Indeed. As I pointed out a few days back on one of Weinman's posts, even though he's pretty much just as partisan, his perceptions are marginally more grounded in reality than Parisella's musings on just how tingly he gets at anything and everything Obama does.

    • Alex is the new Limbaugh on this blog response. Obviously , not too bright and into denigrating the blog and its author. Obama is by far performing better than the moron who occupied the Oval office . A guy who ran up record deficits why conducting a war based on faulty and fabricated intelligence . Maybe it avr or scf or biff or jolyon masquerading as Alex . actually these guys are really funny , not too seroius . Just like Beck.

      limo riding ,champagne socialist ?–this shows how ignorant Alex is about facts and ideology . Obama , a socialist? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah, This is the funniest joke I have heard but these right wing wingnuts take themselves seriously . Or they just joking to get me going and attack parisella

    • Shopenhaur wrote ''Never loose an argument. When you feel you are heading in that direction, start attacking your opponent ad hominem''

      I think Alex read too much Shopenhaur.

      • This isn't really coherent. In the first place, who is Shopenahaur? Do you mean Schopenhauer? Regardless, there is nothing ad hominem in my criticisms of Parisella. Exactly the opposite: I'm criticizing him for not having an actual argument to engage. In the meantime, I'm amused that you find the time to criticize my post for being allegedly "ad hominem", and not be able to find a word about janicepager 's. The case for the hyper-partisanship of Parisella and his defenders can be seen from that alone.

  5. You seem to have some difficulty with reading comprehension, since evidently you missed the point where I said that I did and continue to support Obama. Then you write as if I'd referred to Obama as a socialist, which a simple reading of my post will disprove. I was suggesting that Parisella sounds like a certain sort of left-wing caricature, such as the type which is sometimes called a "champagne socialist". Despite your basic inability to read the simple words contained in my posts, you've typed a response referring to me as a "moron", "ignorant", etc. Evidently, your inability to read and/or comprehend simple sentences disqualifies you from serious discussion, however your post does help to demonstrate the problem with people like Parisella: essentially, Parisella wants to pretend that he's a very high-minded, non-partisan sort of guy, and that he supports Obama for those reasons. However, Parisella's blog posts are so blinkered that they could obviously only have any appeal to hyper-partisan and uncritical ideologues. This point is proven by the fact that his defenders turn out to be as incoherent and debased as janicepager: showing a basic inability to read simple words; wildly distort mild statements for ideological reasons; engage in a series of childish ad hominem insults; incapable of addressing the actual questions raised, and instead flying off into angry tangents, etc. As embarrassing as janicepager's post would appear to the average reader, the sad truth is that their is not a whole lot more substance to that post than to Parisella's. Its just a more debased form of expression. And that should be kept in mind the next time Parisella gets back onto his high horse.

    • ''Parisella wants to pretend that he's a very high-minded, non-partisan sort of guy, and that he supports Obama for those reasons''

      Mr. Parisella never hided the fact that he is a Democrat. He always said he was a fan of Obama. John Parisella has a great political mind, and a pretty accurate description of American politics.

      Get over it.

  6. Michael Barone's analysis makes sense to me:

    "Where have all those Obamenthusiasts who were so visible in 2008 been hiding this year? …

    Many Obamenthusiasts were thrilled by the idea of putting Obama in and getting George W. Bush out. They achieved their goal a year ago. What more is left? Did these people really expend all this energy to reduce the percentage of people without health insurance? "We are the change we are seeking," Obama said during the campaign. Well, the Obamenthusiasts got that change. Now they can go back to gardening or Sudoku."

    And to the extent Obama's change agenda involves imposing socialism on the U.S., he'll hit a brick wall.

    The Americans may be many things, but socialists they are not.

    That's Obama's connundrum, he has no mandate to impose socialism and as he tries he'll get creamed electorally. He will try because he knows nothing else.

    It looks like the electoral fallout will start today.

    • If, in your mind, Obama is a socialist, Harper must truly terrify you.

      • jarrid is really off the wall. obama is the farthest thing from a socialaist . this is really dishonest B.S.There will probably not be a public opinion despite the preference of 70% . Where is the socialism ? Obama is following Bush on TARP and stimulus . Is bush a socialist ? GM and Chrysler were just to prevent greater unemployment and a depression . Not in his program . Crazy bonus on Wall Street . Is that socialism . Jarrid is either pulling our leg or is dishonest .
        He is pulling our leg .

  7. There's nothing egregiously wrong with this piece, but it seems to be very fluffy. Sort of boils down to "Obama is basically a good guy – stay the course."

    What is funny (to me anyway) is that Parisella's tacit admission of Obama's underwhelmingness (?) (underwhelmingaciousness?) (underwhelmitude?) is from the perspective that Obama is not sufficiently left. Given Obama's record (granted, a very short one) of being possibly the most left-leaning Senator in the Chamber, this illustrates Parisella's own perspective (nothing wrong with that) and his seeming inability to put it aside to write an objective piece (something definitely wrong with that).

    Everyone has their own perspective, but analysis is better when it presents the arguments on both sides in their strongest light.

  8. Replicans have taken the governorship of New Jersey, a Democratic stronghold.

    Republicans have taken the Virginia governorship from the Democrats.

    Obama had personally campaigned for both losing candidates.

    Over to you Mr. Parisella to explain all this away.

    • You can untwist your knickers, Jarrid.

      In the contests with direct Washington implications the Congressional contests
      in New York and California both went Democrat. Granted, it remains to be seen
      whether they will be Democrat or Republican/Democrat. Depends on the lobbyists
      lining up outside the office,I guess.

    • Hi! There, I am in Canada. Even though not yet a Canadian, but In Canada here, we do say, " what goes around; comes around". I don't think there is room for folks to get mad/angry. Keep your heads up and work out better stratigies to regain ownership.

  9. I would have voted for Christie . The Republicans lost a seat in NY. But Obama is still President , isn't he ?

    • Still President yes, but only for 3 more years. After that he's,


      • wishful thinking Jarrid . In your dreams .And certainly not with Palin .Or Rush.

      • I sincerely doubt that. Perhaps it's my cynical Eeyore tendencies speaking, but I think he'll be reelected easily. He is a glib speaker with the media and everyone on the social left solidly behind him. I don't think there is anything he can do, legal or illegal, that would ruin his chances for reelection.

  10. Let's all celebrate everything Obama has accomplished in his first year in office by making a list!

    1 – He won a Nobel Peace Prize for being awesome! That's awesomely awesome!

    2 – ……

    3 – ……

    4 – …… He won a Nobel Peace Prize for being awesome!

    • how about …preventing a depression , setting up a plan to end US combat in Iraq, Stopping torture,no one closer to health care , stem cell research ,saving auto industry and jobs or else unemployment would be about 13%,energy policy directions , new financial regulations , restoring US repeputation


  11. buyer's remorse: it's time to stop obama's policies completely, because he wants to wreck america!

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