Obama’s legacy could be damaged by Trump
The 44th president is set to leave the White House on Friday. Metro examines his victories and defeats, and how his record may be shaped by the actions of his successor.
President Obama came to office on Jan. 20, 2009, at a time when the world economy was in crisis and the U.S. was engaged in several post-9/11 military operations, including a war in Iraq.
Since that time the U.S. has almost entirely withdrawn its troops from Iraq, tracked down and killed 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden and encountered a new terrorist threat in ISIS.
Obama’s progressive social agenda included sweeping health care reform, greater rights for gay and transgender people and efforts to address climate change.
On the economic front, he secured passage of a $787 billion stimulus package, rescued the auto industry, and adopted major reforms of banking and finance. Unemployment in the country fell from over 10 percent in his first year in office to under 5 percent in his final year.
“I think that his major achievement was to bring the U.S. and the world back from the brink of the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression of 1930s,” Jack Goldstone, public policy scholar at Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, told Metro.
“He gets too little credit for America’s return to full employment, record levels of stock markets and corporate profits” he added.
Experts say Obama will be criticized for not doing more to address the crisis in Syria.
“He failed to remove the Assad regime and stem the flow of refugees, yielding the initiative to Russian President (Vladimir) Putin, who took a brutal military approach to support Assad,” said Fletcher McClellan, professor of political science at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
Domestically, the Democratic Party under Obama suffered enormous losses during his two terms.
It lost both houses of Congress, two-thirds of state governors and most state legislatures. Because of these defeats, he had to resort to executive orders in his second term to achieve policy goals in areas such as immigration and environmental protection.
Though his presidency was relatively successful, Obama was unable to help secure the election of Hillary Clinton. Because of that loss, many of his accomplishments, including the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, are already under attack by President-elect Trump and the Republican Congress.
“Trump has enormous power to unmake much of Obama’s legacy,” McClellan said. “He has said that there are parts of Obamacare he wants to keep. He may find it is difficult or undesirable to cancel the Iran deal or pull out of the Paris accord. Nevertheless, it is almost certain that the U.S. under Trump will move in a different direction, especially in regards to policy towards immigration, taxes and trade.”