Was Financial Rescue Really Obama's Greatest Act?

Evaluating his first year in office, President Obama says yes. But what about health care?

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President Obama, looking back on 2009 and his first year in office, told the Washington Post, "the most important thing we did this year was to ensure that the financial system did not collapse." That Obama would make such a definitive statement is raising eyebrows, especially in the midst of the long and grueling fight for health care reform. Is Obama right to declare it his greatest accomplishment?

  • Pork Spending Over Foreign Policy? Jules Crittenden rolls his eyes. "Pork Was Job One! And a job well done. Allowing a Democratic Congress to gorge on a multi-billion-$$$ Porkulus was Obama's greatest first-year accomplishment," he writes. "The WaPo article unfortunately has a very tight legislative focus, with no foreign policy, no Afghan war, and no indication of whether that was addressed in the interview."
  • Part of 'Pivot' to Jobs Politico's Mike Allen says this is part of the White House plan to put more attention on growing jobs. "When health care is done (not meaning the president has signed it -- once it's off the front burner), we're going to make a very hard pivot to jobs in the run-up to the State of the Union.: You'll see an intense focus on the economy and jobs from this White House in the beginning of 2010," he writes channeling the White House strategy. "It all falls under the rubric of a MIDDLE CLASS AGENDA. Hopefully this focus will give the country a psychological lift, even while we're waiting for jobs numbers to rebound."
  • What About Health Care? The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen points out that Obama campaigned heavily on health care in general and the public option specifically. "The president pointed to accomplishments that 'in a normal legislative year would be considered really big achievements' [...] But health care remains the central focus of Obama's young presidency, and one of his comments to the WaPo has already rankled many," he writes. "This president, like all presidents, wants historic achievements to look as impressive as possible. When health care reform is signed into law, the White House doesn't want the first paragraph to read, 'President Obama accomplished today what most modern presidents couldn't deliver ... but he didn't get what he really wanted.' Obama, then, has an incentive to characterize the final product as a close reflection of what he requested all along."
  • So Where's Our Economic Rebound? The Agonist's Sean Paul Kelley points out that third quarter GDP growth has been revised down to 2%. "Meanwhile, Obama thinks he's done a lot in reforming the banking sector. No, really. However, the banks aren't lending, so what does Obama do? Urges the little guy to fill the gap that the big guys aren't. Quite the metaphor: browbeat the little guy into saving the big guys ass."
  • Shows Lax Commitment to Health Care Reform Daily Kos blogger McJoan scoffs, "That would have saved us all a lot of headaches if we'd heard it from the beginning, instead of this from June, or in September, or back during the presidential campaign. I guess that settles once and for all whether he'll push for a public option in the House-Senate conference," she writes. "[R]ight now, in this economy and at a time when so many people are strugging so mightily, this could have been a powerful win for the people.
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