White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2016, President Obama

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33 thoughts on “White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2016, President Obama

  1. “You look terrible, Mr. President. No, you do, man. Look at you. Your hair is so white it tried to punch me at a Trump rally.”

  2. I have to say that from this side of the pond (the UK) he comes over as a class act

    in a way (and said with a heavy heart) all the more worrying (for the US) that his achievements have been so mediocre

  3. Tadaa, I’m afraid your analysis is a slice short if a loaf.

    He could have done much more without the unbelievably hostile Congress, but he did quite a bit anyway.

    Of course, if after eight years that’s what you think, I assume you’ll remain stuck in your misapprehension.

  4. @2. Tadaaa :

    Getting a real national healthcare system, getting Osama bin Laden and finally getting the USA to do at least something on Climate Change including sign the Paris treaty is “mediocre”is it?

    I agree its disappointing that he couldn’t have delivered a lot more – hamstrung by a hostile Congress and a Republican party that would shut down govt before listening to reason – but still. he did quite a bit of good ad actually pretty impressive.

    1. “Getting a real national healthcare system….”

      The USA has a national healthcare system for some citizens, but not for most. Medicaid and the VA are the closest the USA has to a health care system. As Ms Clinton noted, the fabulously wealthy people who run the country will never allow a national health care system.

  5. OK as I pointed, this is a view from someone who is not from the US – and it was hardly an “analysis” but that aside let expand

    Because I am an outsider I receive a different perspective on US affairs than that from a US citizen living in America

    So I am obviously less well informed about the details of his domestic achievements – and I absolutely accept that point

    So the main area I see reported and of interest to me is Gun Control/Policing and the state of the Middle East (US foreign policy)

    (and the frankly bizarre Presidential race)

    In both of those areas I believe Obama achievements have been mediocre – The situation in Middle East is a human catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale, Gun Control!!! I admit it we just don’t get it – full stop

    And I say this as a fan of Obama, like I said he is obviously a class act. So in my view the problem as I see it, is if you take Obama’s undoubted achievements and say “this is what good looks like” then what happens if you get some of the lunatics that seem to be running for president in charge of the Whitehouse

    Re Obamacare – sure, maybe you view that as more than mediocre, the problem is in the UK we have world-class healthcare, delivered according to need, not ability to pay – that goes from cradle to grave and includes both Hospital, Emergency, GP and home services – and all delivered for 7 or 8 % of GDP (according to figures I have seen the US spend 17% of GDP on healthcare – and yet health care costs, even for people insured, represent the majority of personal bankruptcies)

    Our NHS is not perfect – but ask any expat American living in the UK, it is pretty good (and relatively cheap)

    Tbh I don’t really want post about politics – this is a science blog after all, and in a way I regret posting the initial comment

    I am also happy to be corrected about anything I have said – but as I pointed out in my initial comment it is a view on matters from a UK perspective – from an Obama supporter

  6. I believe Obama achievements have been mediocre

    Perhaps you should read about the United States Government to see what the President is actually allowed to do: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_government_of_the_United_States

    “this is what good looks like” then what happens if you get some of the lunatics

    The US constitution puts various restrictions on Presidents.

    Obamacare – sure, maybe you view that as more than mediocre, the problem is in the UK we have world-class healthcare

    As I implied earlier, the US effectively has three houses of parliament: House of Representatives, Senate, and President. All three have to line up Democrat for a long while to get and keep anything better than Obamacare. This hasn’t happened since Kennedy/Johnson.

    So basically, the people who actually turn up to vote in US elections just aren’t interested in “world-class healthcare”, their choice of President notwithstanding.

  7. @6. Desertphile : Okay. I thought Obamacare was a national healthcare system that was better and more like a proper national health system than Medicaid but then its not my nation and I could be mistaken about that?

    I thought Obamacare was meant to be a huge improvement on what they had before if nothing else & a big part of Obama’s legacy?

    1. “I thought Obamacare was meant to be a huge improvement on what they had before if nothing else & a big part of Obama’s legacy?”

      Well gosh; the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a long set of market regulations. It is therefore a vast improvement on what had been (“the invisible hand of the free market”). A massive amount of wealth went to corporate investors instead of to health care, and the ACA diverts some of that wealth back to health care.

      Most USA citizens don’t pay for health care; they pay for health care insurance, and when we need health care we still cannot afford it— no matter how much wealth we have given and still give to insurance companies. The situation was so bad that insurance corporations were dictating health care— not physicians; also, a huge number of families with health care insurance were still going bankrupt due to catastrophic illnesses.

      A few years ago I almost died. My physician ordered chest x-rays twice a day to monitor fluid in my lungs. The people who hold my insurance policy said the x-rays were unnecessary, so they would not pay for them; ditto most lab tests, the extra fee for the isolation ward, and the most expensive antibiotics. Before the ACA, the burden to justify these expenses was on the patient and the physician; after the ACA, the burden to justify not paying for these expenses rests upon the insurance industry. (When I left the hospital, even with health care insurance, my medical expenses was 900% my yearly income.)

      The ACA includes two budgetary provisions: expansion of Medicare for the extremely poor, and funding hospital survival research.

      A bloody hell of a lot of people died because they contracted diseases at hospitals, and the ACA funds research and preventative measures to lower the death rate.

  8. “[….] “In both of those areas I believe Obama achievements have been mediocre….” [….]”

    The USA president runs the military, makes treaties, approves or rejects the budget, and wields congressional veto. All are subjected to congressional approval and/or over-ride. Just what do you believe the USA presidents powers are—- dictatorial? The only real power that USA presidents have is the executive order, and Obama used it less than it has been in 120 years.

    Obama does not get to decide gun regulation (your example). Obama does not get to decide shutting down the USA’s torture facilities. Obama does not get to decide is the USA will have a national health care system or not. Nor dictate equal rights for women, black people, homosexuals, and poor people; nor dictate the right to vote; nor dictate police officers to stop killing people; nor dictate that all states expand Medicare; etc.

  9. Tadaa,
    Well, there’s a case to be made for your points @ 7 –plus that his handling of Wall Street was perhaps a little too timid and incremental. If I had to second guess Obama, though, it would be that he mishandled the momentum he had when he was first elected. He has complained about control of the bully pulpit, but from the outside it looks more like he directly shifted into wonk mode the minute he stepped into office and purposely disdained the ‘touchy-feely’ motivation stuff.

    I have to wonder if instead of being a punching bag for wingnut trash, he could have put the far right out of commission while dedicating some resources to lasting media reform. If nothing else we might have been spared the Trump-Cruz-whatever circus.

  10. @7. Tadaaa :

    So the main area I see reported and of interest to me is Gun Control/Policing and the state of the Middle East (US foreign policy) .. In both of those areas I believe Obama achievements have been mediocre – The situation in Middle East is a human catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale,

    Yes it is.

    Still that’s not all or even mainly Obama’s fault and may I just remind you of the Iran deal here?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Comprehensive_Plan_of_Action )

    Also, its a long way from the South West Asian region but when it comes to thawing relationships with really long time enemies there’s the case of Obama’s big US policy shift on Cuba too. Hell, Obama even visited Cuba just recently, how soon we forget!

    I wouldn’t call either of those things “mediocre” accomplishments although there’s certainly still a lot of progress to be made and potential problems ahead.

    As for gun control? Well, one acronym really – NRA.

    @10. Desertphile : Thanks for that explanation. Much appreciated.

  11. Plus Obama did end the war in Iraq at least briefly before the Da’esh (IS-IL/S) invasion of it from Syria.

  12. My impression is that precious time was lost during the drawn out healthcare negotiations with the Republicans – negotiations that lead nowhere. (If I remember correctly, not one Republican senator voted for the bill.) At a time when the Republicans already had decided to oppose any initiative from Obama, he still believed in the possibility of compromise. Instead of appearing reasonable and resolute, he appeared feckless.

    In a recent interview, Joseph Stiglitz implied that Obama should have accomplished more:

    “A big question, in all of these areas, is could he have gotten more out of Congress? That’s a very difficult political judgement. I think a lot of people feel that in those first two years where there was a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress he could’ve gotten a lot more done—he was just too conservative. He was too much in the hands of the banks, too much in the hands of big business, too much in the hands campaign contributors. He’s done a lot of things by executive order in the last year, like raising the minimum wage and climate change. But a lot of people are wondering, why did he wait? The issue on fiduciary standards for investment, that seems a no brainer and now it’s being challenged, will he be able to get these through in his last few months in office. These were known to be problems before, why didn’t he do it earlier?”
    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/stiglitz-inequality/479952/

    Last week The New York Times had a long article on Obama’s economic legacy. He inherited a disaster, but the recovery has left many in the lurch:

    “But as Obama also acknowledged, the public anger about the economy is not without empirical basis. A large swath of the nation has dropped out of the labor force completely, and the reality for the average American family is that its household income is $4,000 less than it was when Bill Clinton left office. Economic inequality, meanwhile, has only grown worse, with the top 1 percent of American households taking in more than half of the recent gains in income growth. “Millions and millions and millions and millions of people look at that pretty picture of America he painted and they cannot find themselves in it to save their lives,” Clinton himself said of Obama’s economy in March, while on the campaign trail for his wife. “People are upset, frankly; they’re anxiety-ridden, they’re disoriented, because they don’t see themselves in that picture.”
    It is this disconnect that haunts Obama. He has, by his own lights, managed the recovery as well as any president ever could, with results that in many cases exceeded his own best hopes. But despite the gains of the past seven years, many Americans have been left behind. Something has changed, and as he prepares to leave office, Obama seems to understand that his economic legacy might be judged not just by what he has done, but by how the results compare to a bygone era of middle-class opportunity, one that perhaps no president, faced with the sweeping changes transforming the global economy, could ever bring back.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/magazine/president-obama-weighs-his-economic- legacy.html?_r=0

    It should be mentioned, though, that the austerity impeded European recovery has been much slower and much worse. The figure for youth unemployment in Spain is currently at 24%.

    In response to #3, the proper terminology is three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

  13. I think Obama is great, but I suspect he might be temperamentally better suited to the Supreme Court. (If he gets appointed, so far as I know, that would make him the first ever winner of the coveted COSCJUP!)

  14. Huh? Trying to win the coveted most apocryphal acronym award? (About all I get out of that is “Supreme Court Justice”…)

  15. Yes!

    It’s like an EGOT ( Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony sweep) but for politicians:
    COngressperson, Supreme Court JUstice, President

  16. cosmicomics #15:

    I agree with your analysis and offer my own.

    President Obama had both the house and the senate during his first two years – and yes – he wasted a lot of time trying to get a bipartisan bill for obamacare.

    But another big problem with the Obama white house was he didn’t draft any of his own legislation. He said things like “give me a bill I can sign” about a lot of different bills.

    He would have been better off just writing his own bills and submitting them to both house and senate. Half the time spent on Obamacare was reconciling the two democratic versions produced by the house and senate.

    If President Obama had just written his own bills (which is historically quite common) and had them introduced to both the house and senate at the same time, only the amendments need to be reconciled.

    He also could have passed immigration reform (had he wanted) or a gun bill (had he wanted).

    Instead, he waited until after he lost control of the house (and later the senate).

    Those are my thoughts.

    Fair warning – I am not a democrat.

    Take this analysis with a grain of salt.

  17. In many ways, Taft would have him beat, though. Taft was, variously, POTUS, SCOTUS Chief Justice, cabinet member, appellate court judge, and Solicitor General.

    Sounds like a straight flush beating your full house…

  18. Yeah, that’s impressive, but it doesn’t cover all three Federal branches (in apex institutions) — a triple threat! There would be ways to best it, but he would be the first.

  19. He would be, and as a Constitutional Law expert, and given his temperament, I think Obama would make a fine member of the SCOTUS.

    Let’s hope that Merrick Garland doesn’t mind waiting one more turn so that President Clinton can nominate Obama to fill the empty seat that the G0P so insistently demand that she be allowed to nominate.

  20. Donald Trump is funny too.

    Donald Trump Says He Has More Foreign Policy Experience Than ‘Virtually Anyone’ in Race

    And he can prove it with unimpugnable objectivity:
    “…as far as I’m concerned, I think I have great experience.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/05/02/donald-trump-says-he-has-more-foreign-policy-experience-than-virtually-anyone-in-race/?ref=todayspaper

    (Note how slyly he ridicules persons who are obsessed with money and who brag about how rich they are.)

  21. The claim that President Obama had a “Democratic” Senate for two years is incorrect. Even during the period when there were 60 nominal Dems, several of those were very conservative and blocked Public Option.

    Remember, there was zero chance of getting even one R vote, so he was negotiating with his own party. You can’t really go on the offensive against someone whose election you supported in the first place.

    I think he did a very very good job, and he has been brutally self-critical where he erred. A good man.

  22. When you sit back and realize that someone as racist, bigoted, dishonest, and misogynistic as Ted Cruz isn’t extreme enough for the modern Republican party, you should be very concerned.

  23. Maybe it’s because Cruz is a secretive, slimy weasel, whereas Trump makes his racist, bigoted, dishonest, and misogynistic values blatantly obvious.

    I think that made it much easier for the Republican voter base to identify with Trump, and (in a perverse way) feel recognized and justified in their own racism, bigotry, dishonesty, and misogyny.

  24. Cruz represented a distilled version of what the Republican Party has come to stand for at a time when the Republican Party no longer represented a crucial segment of its voters. Trump appealed to these voters’ fears, prejudices and resentment. Much of what he said was not in line with Republican orthodoxy, but it was his appeals that mattered.

    It’ll be fascinating to see how Trump attempts to balance between the party establishment and the anti-establishment discontent of his voters. Many influential Republicans have disavowed him, and the party’s donors don’t seem eager to support him. The rationale seems to be to save what can be saved, and that doesn’t include the White House.

  25. @ desertphile

    The USA president runs the military, makes treaties, approves or rejects the budget, and wields congressional veto. All are subjected to congressional approval and/or over-ride. Just what do you believe the USA presidents powers are—- dictatorial? The only real power that USA presidents have is the executive order, and Obama used it less than it has been in 120 years.

    Obama does not get to decide gun regulation (your example). Obama does not get to decide shutting down the USA’s torture facilities. Obama does not get to decide is the USA will have a national health care system or not. Nor dictate equal rights for women, black people, homosexuals, and poor people; nor dictate the right to vote; nor dictate police officers to stop killing people; nor dictate that all states expand Medicare; etc.

    re the above – one wonders what is the point then

    we have a Queen as head of state, army et al (even church!!!!!) – (I am a republican btw – in the true sense of the word)

    we acknowledge she is 99% ceremonial (actually it is slightly more complicated than that)

    but she seems to do pretty much what your president does (with “check and balances”) – by your description anyway

  26. re the above – one wonders what is the point then

    This: Yours is an inherited political position, whereas ours is by election (even if it only indirectly traces back to the citizens). We did not want a George III thrust upon us then, and we still don’t want that now.

    (I would prefer our system of installing political leaders & decision-makers involve demonstrated merit, too, but I guess we can’t have everything…)

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