Political Science

Obama Presidency

It may seem like a simple procedure to determine whether or not Barrack Obama  has been a successful President due to the fact that he was able to obtain a second term. For some observers and historians, this fact alone suggests that  Obama has been a successful President and that the feeling that he is capable and competent is shared by not only a number of professional pundits and commentators, but by the majority of the voting public as well.  Such an assertion is based on a general perception of what Obama has and has not accomplished as President during  his first term. the generalized opinion that re-election is equitable with success is debatable. The criteria for challenging Obama’s status as a successful President is based on the state of the country as well as the state of polarization among the electorate.   Of course, in most cases, when the question of success is raised, what is desired is a simple, declarative answer: “yes” or “no.” Finding such a basic and declarative answer, however, may not only be challenging, it may actually be impossible.

The reason that it is extremely difficult to determine with  certainty whether or not Obama has been a successful President is due to the fact that many external circumstances beyond his direct control or influence play a part in shaping the state of the nation and the stature of America in a global context. In fact, these two separate areas beg the question as to whether or not there is a difference in Obama’s degree of success in foreign policy compared to domestic policy and vice-versa. In other  words, it might be argued that Obama has been a successful President in terms of foreign policy but less successful with domestic policy and it might also be argued that Obama’s foreign policy has failed while his domestic policies have succeeded. The best way to make a determination about Obama’s success or failure is to view both foreign policy and domestic policy as equally important in regard to how they reflect the job that the President has been doing so far . In order to make an informed judgment about Obama’s performance as President it is also necessary to seek out a variety of sources and references.  Obviously, because of the recent trend in American journalism to adopt an openly partisan political perspective, it is necessary to refer to both “conservative” journalists and “liberal” journalists. It would be much easier to determine how successful President Obama has been if there was a set of objective criteria and objective judges. Failing that. a good tactic is to examine a number of perspectives in order to make an informed and balanced determination.

One of the most important parts of making an informed decision about Obama as President is to try to determine what, if any, aspects of recent policy, whether foreign or domestic, can be directly associated with the President. After this determination is made, it is then possible to make a judgment about whether or not those policies have been  helpful or detrimental. there is also a consideration as to whether or not the policies that policies that can be tied to Obama are helpful or negative in the short term and long term. The examination of Obama’s performance as President is therefore both complex and multi-faceted.  This is one reason why  arriving at a simple “yes” or “no” answer in regard to the question of whether or not Obama has been a successful President is so difficult. As Palguta and Shea point out in their article “Challenges and Opportunities for 2nd Obama Administration,” (2013) Obama’s record is not only based on his decisions and policy endorsements, but on the ever-changing conditions of the country in both social and political terms.

Palguta and Shea indicate that one of the crucial issues in regard to Obama’s second term as President is how to improve and refine the performance of the government itself. This is an area where the President’s executive powers play a decisive role. So this means that on the topic of government performance, President Obama can be held to a more direct line of responsibility for policy outcomes and decisions than in areas such as the economy where the President may claim only a marginal degree of control.  The authors note that conditions in Obama’s second term promise to be even more hectic and painstakingly difficult than during the first term. According to the article. although it is true that Obama’s administration  “faced a number of challenges during its first term–including its share of workforce management challenges–what’s coming up could make the first four years seem like the good old days.”1

Faced with increasing challenges in even the ares where he has direct authority, Obama occupies an ambiguous position in terms of his perceived success as a leader. On one hand, it is verifiable that much of the legislation passed during Obama’s first term represents a fulfillment of the ideals and promises he made during the 2008 campaign. On the other hand, the success of Obama’s legislative achievements fail to resonate with a significant portion of the American population. Similarly, Obama’s legislative success during his first term has failed to result in a mending of ties between Democrats and Republicans. In the article , “Legislative Success and Political Failure: The Public’s Reaction to Barrack Obama’s Early Presidency,” (2011) Gary C. Jacobson observes that when viewed in purely legislative terms, Obama’s first term as President stands as a reasonably authentic upholding of his campaign platform. Jacobson writes that “Obama pushed through a huge economic stimulus package targeting the deep recession he had inherited, initiated comprehensive reforms of the nation’s health care system, and signed a major redesign of financial regulation.” 2 These accomplishments are outstanding given the fact that such deep rifts continue to endure between the two political parties in Congress.

In addition to his legislative work in regards to the economy, government efficiency, and health care, Obama’s first term also saw the attainment of notable achievements in foreign policy. of course, the most important and profound impact that Obama has exerted in relation to foreign policy has been his stance on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After campaigning as an “anti-war” candidate who was also hawkish on American national security, Obama’s actions as President during his first term remained consistent to his pledges on the campaign trail. Jacobson mentions that, in regard to foreign policy and war-strategy “Obama also kept his campaign pledge to wind down the United States’ involvement in Iraq and to reallocate American forces to confront the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.” 3 Such a consistency of purpose and an honesty of conducting policy is, unfortunately, unusual in American politics. For this reason alone, Obama must be regarded as a successful President in that has personally restored the honesty and dignity of the Presidency after eight years of lies and subterfuge committed by the Bush administration. That said, comparing President Obama to Bush is insufficient in so far as arriving as an objective appraisal of Obama’s success. If the bar of success was simply that Obama was more honest and competent than Bush, then the case would be settled and Obama could be correctly judged as a superior leader.

The question of Obama’s success as President is, however, involved with much than a comparison between Obama and Bush.  Even Jacobson admits that while the record of Obama’s first term points to a standout record of bold achievement and apparent integrity of purpose, the ultimate impact of Obama’s policies and decisions  are impossible to presently gauge. This is because the impact of such policies as the draw-down in Iraq and the implementation of a sweeping health care policy are far too profound to determine in the short term. this is, as previously mentioned, one of the more interesting aspects of Obama’s presidency: that he seems to favor policies that have both short-term and long-term impacts.  Jacobson writes that Obama’s achievement of health care reform may, in the long run, prove to be the legislative action that will most acutely define his legacy. Jacobson asserts that “ Implementation of the complex legislation is not scheduled to be completed until 2014, and its effects on the cost and quality of health care will not be known for many years.” 4 with a determination about Obama’s most important first-term legislative action being impossible to ascertain, a final and comprehensive judgment about the success of Obama as President may not be possible for many years.

For example, if Obama’s health care reform proves  to be effective at increasing the number of people in America who have access to decent health care while simultaneously lowering health care costs, then Obama will be viewed retrospectively as a highly competent leader in terms of domestic policy. If, on the other hand, health care reform results in a massive increase to the national debt and a decrease in the  overall quality of health care in America, Obama is likely to be viewed in hindsight as a massive failure in terms of domestic policy. This is, obviously, one of the dangers that any president who attempts massive overhauls to important systems such as health care must face. Obama’s success or failure as a President, overall, is largely based on how the health car reform laws will impact the nation in the years to come. That said, one immediate impact of Obama’s championing health care reform during his first term is that political fallout from doing so remains in play for his second term. The political fallout exists both in the way that the opposition party relates to Obama and it is also evident in the way that the public views the President.

As Jacobson mentions, the re-election of Obama notwithstanding, one of the immediate impacts of Obama’s overall performance during his first term was the ascension of additional republicans (including Tea Party candidates) in the mid-term elections of 2010. just as Obama deserves credit for the domestic and foreign policy accomplishments cited above, he also bears responsibility for the public reaction to such policies and for the stature of the Democratic party at large in electoral terms. Jacobson notes that the public reaction to Obama’s first term achievements was not wholly positive. He writes “The public’s response was to hand his party a decisive defeat in the 2010 midterm election, leaving him to face a hostile Republican majority in the House and sharply diminished Democratic majority in the Senate.” 5 This means that whatever the long-term consequences of Obama’s policies may be, one of the short-term consequences was the increase of support for the opposition party, at least prior to the 2012 re-election of the President.

The future is also an important consideration in making a determination as to whether or not Obama has been a successful President. Simply surveying the range of issues that lie in wait for the President gives some idea of the challenges he faces if he intends to be thought of and remembered as a successful President. Linda Feldman in her article “”Inauguration 2013: How Obama Is Different from Four Years Ago” (2013) notes that the future challenges that Obama must face will play a very large role in determining his legacy. She writes that “To be sure, Obama has many challenges ahead: Irans nuclear ambitions, declining relations with Russia, the rise of China, instability in the Arab world.” 6 The way that Obama meets these issues will be important factors in the way his presidency is judged by both contemporary and future observers.

The best way to answer the question: is Obama a successful President is to assert that he is a successful President in relation to the tasks and challenges that were set before him during his first term. Paul H. Elovitz, in his article, “Messianic Hopes, Anger, Fantasy, Fear, and Disappointment in Obama’s Presidency,” 92010) mentions that “Obama has had quite a number of successes, most notably in achieving health care reform, stabilizing the economy, and getting a modest program of financial reform through both houses of Congress.” 7 The big question that remains in regard to whether or not Obama will be remembered as a successful President is whether or not his two signature first-term achievements will result in a better future for America. If Obama’s leadership in regard to heal care reform and war-strategy result in  long term benefits for the United States, he will in all likelihood be remembered as a very successful President. If these signature achievements are detrimental to America over the long-term he will almost certainly be regarded by future observers as a wholesale failure.


  1. John M. Palguta and Robert Shea, “Challenges and Opportunities for 2nd Obama Administration,” The Public Manager 42, no. 1 (2013).
  2. Gary C. Jacobson, “Legislative Success and Political Failure: The Public’s Reaction to Barack Obama’s Early Presidency,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 41, no. 2 (2011).

3.- 5. Ibid.

  1. Linda Feldmann, “Inauguration 2013: How Obama Is Different from Four Years Ago ( Video),” The Christian Science Monitor, January 2, 2013
  2. Paul H. Elovitz, “Messianic Hopes, Anger, Fantasy, Fear, and Disappointment in Obama’s Presidency,” The Journal of Psychohistory 38, no. 2 (2010)



Elovitz, Paul H. “Messianic Hopes, Anger, Fantasy, Fear, and Disappointment in Obama’s Presidency.” The Journal of Psychohistory 38, no. 2 (2010): 102+.

Feldmann, Linda. “Inauguration 2013: How Obama Is Different from Four Years Ago ( Video).” The Christian Science Monitor, January 2, 2013.

Jacobson, Gary C. “Legislative Success and Political Failure: The Public’s Reaction to Barack Obama’s Early Presidency.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 41, no. 2 (2011): 220+.

Palguta, John M., and Robert Shea. “Challenges and Opportunities for 2nd Obama Administration.” The Public Manager 42, no. 1 (2013): 54+.