Many years ago, I had a discussion, bordering on an argument, with a friend on the pros and cons of gazpacho, that cold soup that consists of raw vegetables in a tomato base. In truth, I’ve never been a fan of any cold soups. My friend and I went back and forth on what each of us liked or didn’t like about gazpacho, and neither of us was changing the other’s mind.
Finally, somewhat in frustration, somewhat out of boredom, my friend called an end to the disagreement.
“Ed,” he said, “let’s just agree that some people love gazpacho and some people just don’t know what they’re missing.”
With respect to politics, some people view Democrats the way I view cold soup. I tend to view Republicans (especially the current version of them) that way. But even some hot soups are better than others, and I confess to being less than entirely enamored of the seven years (to date) of Barack Obama’s presidency. I like much of what he has attempted and some of what he’s accomplished, but I also fault him for a few things he has not handled well (or, at least, in a manner I approve of). He has not been perfect, far from it, in fact.
Then again, just how far from perfect he’s been depends on whom you ask. Last week a reader (feeling no doubt that I was unaware of the cold soup he felt Obama represented) wrote to educate me on just how poor Obama’s presidency has been. And he provided me with a veritable laundry list of presidential failures of leadership that included policies he didn’t agree with along with these bad things that have happened on Obama’s watch: the IRS scandal, Benghazi, the GS scandal, VA hospital mis- and malfeasance, the police killings in Ferguson, Chicago and Baltimore, Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the rise of ISIS, the breakdown of relations with Israel, worsened race relations, Hillary Clinton’s improper use of emails, the national debt, disregard for the Constitution, and the U.S.-Mexican border (no explanation for listing that one, but probably referring to immigration concerns).
In response, I pointed out that many items on the list were hardly Obama’s “fault” or even things that he could have controlled. And I reminded him of these areas where Obama could claim success:
-The economy is fully restored, with the federal deficit at only 2.5% of GDP (lower than ever under Ronald Reagan) and unemployment now half of what it had become when Obama began his first term (and as low as it ever was under Reagan);
-The United States is no longer engaged in either of the two wars it was fighting when he took office and fewer Americans have lost their lives in battle than under any president since Jimmy Carter;
-The country finally has a national health care law that makes medical care available to everyone, leading to the lowest percentage of Americans without health insurance in the nation’s history;
-Under U.S. leadership, all of the civilized nations have finally agreed to fight climate change;
-The near-bankrupt auto industry has completely recovered;
-U.S. dependence on foreign oil is lower than at any time in recent history;
-“Illegal immigration” is lower than when Obama took office and more undocumented immigrants have been deported than under any other administration;
-Osama bin Laden is dead, as are any number of leaders of al Qaeda and ISIS; and
-Inflation is almost non-existent, and the stock market (by most indices) is higher than it has ever been.
My reader was unmoved by these facts, claiming (fairly in some instances) that Obama didn’t deserve credit just because some good things had happened while he was in office. I agreed, pointing out that the opposite must then also be true (that he didn’t deserve blame just because some bad things happened on his watch), a point he chose to ignore.
For my final effort at enlightenment, I asked the reader to name one “on-Obama’s-watch” event or scandal or poor decision that he would consider worse than any of these:
-The invasion of Iraq (George W. Bush)
-Sexual indiscretions and lies about them (Bill Clinton)
-The Iran-Contra scandal (Ronald Reagan)
-Watergate (Richard Nixon)
-The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Lyndon Johnson)
-The Bay of Pigs (John F. Kennedy)
The book is not closed on Barack Obama’s tenure in office. He has slightly less than a year to add to his record (on either side of the ledger). And on which side of the ledger events are placed will vary from one individual’s perspective to another’s. It’s easy to think less of a president who takes on policy directions that are viewed negatively by the individual doing the viewing. Conservatives will think less of most of Obama’s initiatives and accomplishments, just as liberals would have probably thought less of a President McCain’s or a President Romney’s.
But in the end, we only get one president at a time, and as bad as Obama’s detractors may feel some of his policy decisions have been, he has not (to this point, at least) been responsible for anything as bad as any of the six points assigned to the presidents who preceded him on the list above.
But there, too, the cold-soup rule still applies, and, sure enough, my reader disagreed even with my assertion that Obama had done nothing as bad as any of the items I listed by his six predecessors. In fact, he offered in retort that most Democrats agreed with the Bush invasion of Iraq and that it still would have turned out fine if Obama hadn’t withdrawn our troops. He also thought that Clinton’s scandal was peanuts in comparison to most of Obama’s failings (although he added that they were reason enough never to vote for any Clinton). And he asserted that the IRS and Benghazi scandals were worse than Iran-Contra and Watergate.
So, there you are. The view you have is colored by the views you have. Some people love gazpacho, and some people just don’t know what they’re missing.