Four Years Later
WATCH VIDEO: 10 Wins & Fails From Obama’s Presidency
From killing Bin Laden to seeing unemployment rise above 10 percent, relive Obama’s highs and lows.
WIN: Election Night in Grant Park, Chicago
It was a historic moment for America: the votes had been counted on Nov. 4, 2008, and Barack Hussein Obama, who campaigned on the ideals of “hope” and “change,” became the first black man to win the presidency. He then threw a pretty damn good party in his hometown.
WIN: Bailout of Detroit
When Obama took office, Detroit’s “Big Three” car companies—Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors—were massively struggling, with Chrysler and GM on the verge of bankruptcy. Chrysler and GM had received some $14 billion from the Bush administration, intended to keep the companies afloat until the new administration took over, while Ford had negotiated a private line of credit. As Chrysler and GM went through bankruptcy (yes, Obama did technically let parts of Detroit go bankrupt), the new president harnessed $80 billion of taxpayer money to ensure that these crucial American corporations—and the auto industry itself—didn’t go under. Today, all three companies are manufacturing cars in America, and according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll, 56 percent of Americans now support the bailout, up from 37 percent in 2009.
FAIL: Unemployment Hits 10 Percent
In the 60 years since the U.S. government has measured unemployment, the highest rate came at the end of 1982, when it reached 10.8 percent—a record America came close to beating in October 2009, when unemployment cascaded to 10.2 percent, up from 9.8 the month before. In the face of what the New York Times called the “widespread assumption” that the recession was over, these jobs numbers reminded Americans that economic recovery was a long way away.
For roughly a century, presidents on both sides of the aisle had tried in vain to overhaul the country’s health-care system. But Obama, in a bold yet highly divisive move, managed to muscle comprehensive health-care reform through a fractured Congress, granting nearly universal insurance to Americans. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, either lovingly or derisively called “Obamacare,” was signed into law on March 23, 2010.
FAIL: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Trial
A little over nine years after two planes flew into the World Trade Center, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was slated to come to Manhattan—in handcuffs. But after the Obama administration announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would face trial in a civilian court, politicians from both parties—including New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats—and families of 9/11 victims erupted in protest, and Obama moved KSM’s trial to a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay. KSM was arraigned in May 2012.
WIN: Killing Osama Bin Laden
Americans flooded into the streets, chanting “USA! USA!” and the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Pundits predicted that this act alone had guaranteed Obama reelection. Hollywood, of course, hastened to produce a movie about it. On May 1, 2011, President Obama walked down the White House’s long cross hall into the East Room, where he told the world that Osama bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world, had been killed by American forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. “Justice has been done,” Obama said.
FAIL: Debt-Ceiling Standoff
Remember that time when America’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history? Yeah, that was a low point. And it was the result of a petty political standoff between congressional Republicans and the Obama administration in the summer of 2011, when the two sides failed to reach an agreement about increasing the country’s debt ceiling until hours—literally hours—before an unprecedented U.S. default. The deal they struck, of course, left much to be decided, and the fight is set to resume when the new Congress takes office next year.
WIN: Gay-Marriage Support
Obama became the first president to publicly express support for gay marriage when he told ABC’s Robin Roberts: “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married” in May 2012. The pronouncement came three days after Vice President Joe Biden told Meet the Press that he was “absolutely comfortable” with allowing same-sex couples to marry, which put pressure on the president to publicly agree or disagree with his deputy. Previous to his announcement, Obama had repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which barred openly gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals from serving in the military.
FAIL: Response to Attacks in Benghazi
Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed on Sept. 11, 2012, in what we now know to be a coordinated terrorist attack on the American Consulate in Libya. His death marked the first time since 1979 that an American ambassador had been killed while serving his country. The following Sunday, Ambassador Susan Rice, who represents the Obama administration at the United Nations, told every major political talk show that Stevens had died in an impromptu attack on the consulate, a retaliation against an incendiary Internet video that defamed the prophet Muhammad. Since then, the country has learned that the attacks were planned, deliberately lethal, and quite possibly the work of a group called Ansar al-Sharia. Senator John McCain has called the administration’s response to Stevens’s death “the worst cover-up or incompetence that I have ever observed in my life.”
FAIL: First Presidential Debate Flop
Obama enjoyed a small lead in the polls heading into the first presidential debate in Denver, Colorado. But he might have felt a little too comfortable, as he didn’t do much more than physically show up. Post-debate, ravaged by the return of Moderate Mitt, the president had lost his lead and (perhaps) the White House. We’ll find out tonight.