Right before the 2008 election I said I’d consider the Obama presidency a success if he accomplished three things:
- Withdrawal from Iraq. Sure, sure, Obama will leave a few “residual troops” in place. I get it. But it’s time to get out.
- Serious healthcare reform. Obviously I’d prefer reform even more serious than what Obama has proposed, but his plan is a good start if it doesn’t get watered down too much.
- Carbon pricing. Obama needs to pass a real energy plan that includes a version of cap-and-trade with teeth. (A carbon tax would also be fine, but I don’t think that’s politically feasible.) Price signals work, and increasing the price of carbon has to be the backbone of any attempt to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. We’re already too late on this, and getting the rest of the world on board may take decades, but we have to start. We’re condemning hundreds of millions of people to an early death if we don’t.
Obviously your mileage may vary, but it looks to me like he’s on track to withdraw from Iraq on schedule and he just passed serious healthcare reform. Carbon pricing increasingly looks unlikely, though, as does serious financial reform, which I left off my list. On the other hand, Obama also passed a historic stimulus bill and has run a pretty effective foreign policy so far.
Even if this is his high point, then, his presidency will have been pretty successful based just on his first year. But if he manages to grow in office and accomplish even more? Then he’ll be the most successful president of the past half century.