Obama's First Year: Defeat, Disarray, Disillusionment

Tuesday, 19 Jan 2010 07:42 PM

By Jim Meyers

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Exactly one year ago today, President Barack Obama swept into the White House on winds of promised change. But a Newsmax look back at his first 365 days in office finds far fewer highlights than lowlights.

On the positive side, Obama no doubt raised the image of America abroad, as demonstrated by his selection as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and he drew praise by going to Dover Air Force Base to witness the return of some American soldiers killed in action.

He signed legislation in February to expand publicly funded insurance for children, reducing the number of uninsured youths by half.

He saw the Senate confirm his choice for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, as the first Latino justice on the high court.

And he set a new record for getting Congress to vote a president’s way, clinching 96.7 percent of the votes on which he had clearly staked a position — breaking the record set by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, according to Congressional Quarterly.

Some would say that passage of the $787 billion stimulus package also should be viewed as an Obama success in that it may have staved off an even deeper economic meltdown.

But on the negative side, Obama’s first year has been marked by failures, gaffes, broken promises and other missteps, including:
  • Within days of taking office, Obama broke his pledge not to raise any taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year by imposing a tax hike of 61 cents on a pack of cigarettes. Measures the president supports would hike taxes by $2.1 trillion over 10 years, according to Americans for Tax Reform.
  • Just weeks after moving into the White House, Obama signed an executive order to shut down the detainee center at Guantanamo Bay and ordered it closed within a year. Nearly a year after he signed the order, the facility remains open.
  • The administration decided to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists in a civilian court in New York rather than in a military court, prompting critics to predict a “public show trial.”
  • Obama traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, in an effort to convince Olympics officials to stage the 2016 games in Chicago. They chose Rio de Janeiro instead.
  • Obama also traveled to Copenhagen for the much-ballyhooed climate change conference, but the bid to forge a broad alliance against global warming fell short, and the Obama-favored cap-and-trade legislation appears to be dead in Congress.
  • The president dithered for months before finally agreeing to send additional troops to Afghanistan, then drew criticism for setting a date for U.S. withdrawal. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that less than half of respondents approve of Obama’s handling of the war overall.
  • Obama said he would end the war in Iraq. During the year since he took office, 473 more soldiers have died there and elsewhere, and troops remain in Iraq.
  • Obama’s efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program have produced no results, and the Islamic Republic appears more determined than ever to acquire nuclear weapons.
  • Diplomacy also has failed to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
  • When mass demonstrations against the Iranian government broke out in June, Obama angered and disappointed opponents of the regime by sidestepping any condemnation of Iran’s use of force against protesters, and said the Islamic Republic had time to regain “legitimacy” in the eyes of the Iranian people.
  • Despite a campaign pledge to allow C-SPAN to televise congressional meetings, Obama and the Democrats have rebuffed a request from C-SPAN to air healthcare discussions and the final version of the healthcare bill will now be hammered out behind closed doors.
  • Obama also pledged to usher in a new era of bipartisanship, then went more than six months without meeting with Republican leaders on healthcare.
  • Obama stirred outrage when he appeared to bow to Saudi King Abdullah at a G-20 meeting in London, a move the Washington Times called an “extraordinary protocol violation.” Despite the criticism, the president also bowed to Japanese Emperor Akihito during a November visit trip to Tokyo.
  • Candidate Obama vowed that no lobbyists would work in his White House. President Obama waived that rule in June for Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who was a registered lobbyist for a defense contractor. Other lobbyists serving in the Obama administration include Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative, and Cecilia Munoz, intergovernmental affairs director at the White House.
  • Obama angered ally Israel by calling for an end to new Jewish settlements in the West Bank, then backed down when Israel’s prime minister refused to halt new construction.
  • The Obama White House launched an all-out attack on Fox News in an attempt to stifle opposition to its liberal policies, only to see ratings for the cable network soar.
  • Obama had to accept ultimate responsibility when the so-called underwear bomber incident exposed serious gaps in the system for detecting and preventing terrorist plots.
  • Security at the White House itself was shown to be porous when two uninvited guests crashed an event honoring the prime minister of India.
  • Obama nominated former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be Health and Human Services secretary. Daschle withdrew his name amid a growing controversy over his failure to accurately report and pay income taxes.
  • The confirmation of Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor was stalled when it came to light that her husband had paid about $6,400 to settle numerous tax liens against his business dating to 1993.
  • At his Senate confirmation hearings, it was revealed that Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner had not paid $35,000 in self-employment taxes for several years. He also deducted the cost of his children's sleep-away camp as a dependent care expense, when only expenses for day care are eligible for the deduction.
  • Annette Nazareth, who was nominated for Deputy Treasury Secretary to help Geithner, withdrew for undisclosed "personal reasons" following a month-long probe into her taxes and other matters.
  • President-elect Obama designated New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for appointment to the Commerce Secretary position. A month later, Richardson announced his decision to withdraw his nomination as a result of an investigation into improper business dealings in New Mexico.
  • Obama appointed Van Jones to be the administration’s “green jobs” czar in March. But he became embroiled in controversy over his past political activities, including his 1990s association with a Marxist group and a public comment disparaging Congressional Republicans, and resigned in September.
  • Nancy Killefer stepped down from consideration to become the government’s first chief performance officer when it was learned her past performance included failure to pay taxes for her household help.
  • In July, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., was arrested at his home by Cambridge, Mass., police officer Sgt. James Crowley, who was responding to a report of a break-in, and charged with disorderly conduct. Obama created a furor by commenting that the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” in arresting the African-American teacher. That led to the Obama-moderated “Beer Summit” between Gates and Crowley, which Townhall.com called “the most demeaning moment of any president in recent memory.”
  • When the administration announced that the U.S. Census would be directed by the White House under the auspices of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Republicans warned that will politicize apportionment of House seats, redistricting, and distribution of federal aid.
  • Obama appointed as his Secretary of Commerce Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who had voted in 1995 to abolish the Commerce Department. In the face of reports that the administration would move the Census, typically run by the Commerce Department, out of Gregg’s jurisdiction, he withdrew his name from consideration.
  • When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown became the first head of government to visit the White House, Obama let word out that the bust of Churchill that Prime Minister Tony Blair had presented to the U.S. as a gift from the British people had been returned to the British Embassy.
  • Obama also canceled a joint news conference with Brown and excluded British reporters from covering Obama’s press conference, an act the London Daily Telegraph called “rudeness personified towards Britain.”
  • A month later he gave a gift to Queen Elizabeth: An iPod full of his own speeches.
  • Obama eased travel and remittance restrictions on Cuba. But Fidel Castro later said Obama "misinterpreted" what his brother Raul had said. Cuba would not be willing to negotiate about human rights, Castro insisted.
  • Obama and his staff vacillated on whether to prosecute those who carried out “enhanced interrogations,” first saying that CIA operatives carrying out orders were in the clear, then later saying it would be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether some officials should be prosecuted.
  • The stock market hit a seven-year low, with the Dow dipping below 7,000, after Obama likened the market to political “tracking polls,” suggesting they’re unimportant.
  • In the first appearance ever by a sitting president on late-night television, Obama remarked to Jay Leno that his bowling ability is “like Special Olympics, or something.” He soon issued an apology for his insensitive remark.
  • Obama betrayed allies Poland and the Czech Republic by canceling plans to build a missile defense shield in those nations to guard against an attack from Iran. Obama reportedly wanted Russia’s help in resolving the nuclear weapons issue in Iran, but Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said he would not "haggle" over Iran and the missile shield.
  •  In his inaugural address, Obama called on Americans to adopt a spirit of sacrifice. But the $49 million cost of his swearing-in ceremony was triple the cost of Bush’s first inaugural.
  • Obama said in February that approval of his $787 billion stimulus package was urgent. Congress got its work done on a Friday, but Obama and his wife Michelle flew off on Air Force One to Chicago for the Valentine’s Day weekend and dined at a romantic restaurant before flying back to Washington on Monday to sign the bill.
  • Obama promised workers at Caterpillar Inc. that his stimulus bill would save their jobs. Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens later said there would be more layoffs at the company.
  • Obama pledged during his campaign to slash earmarks to no greater than 1994 levels, which would be 1,318, according to the Washington Times. Then he signed into law some 9,000 earmarks, totaling about $5 billion.
  • Obama promised in February to crack down on executive pay for companies that take “exceptional” amounts of bailout money. But he did nothing to stop 73 executives from AIG, which has received $170 in bailout funds, from taking home bonuses of up to $6.4 million.
  • Obama’s promise of a public option in the healthcare reform plan — a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers — has died in the Senate. His plan to allow lower-cost drug imports into the U.S. was also defeated.
Looking at the high and low points of Obama’s first year, it is no surprise that his job approval rating has plummeted from around 70 percent when he took office to below 50 percent today. And the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 62 percent of Americans now say the country is on the wrong track, the most in 11 months.

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