As the Syrian crisis appears to be resolving itself in a way that reflects positively on the Obama administration, commentators are tripping over themselves to assess whether President Obama deserves any credit. This issue and others have preoccupied the president during the first year of his second term in office—a period that “This Week“ host George Stephanopoulos characterized as a “lost year.”
“You put gun control at the top of the agenda, immigration reform, climate change,” Stephanopoulos said during an interview with the president, in a week during which Obama sat for interviews with all of the major networks. “All of it stalled or reversing. How do you answer the question that beyond the deficit, this has been a lost year, and how do you save it?”
But the president was not eager to accept the description that this was a “lost year”—and instead pushed any failures during the past year into the lap of Congress.
“On immigration reform, we got a terrific bipartisan vote out of the Senate,” Obama responded. “You had Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together, come up with a bill that wasn’t perfect—not my bill, but it got the job done. It’s now sitting there in the House. If Speaker Boehner put that bill on the floor of the House of Representatives right now, it would pass.”
“So the question then is not whether or not the ideas we put forward can garner a majority of support, certainly in the country,” Obama continued. “I mean, gun control, we had 80%, 90% of the country that agreed with it. The problem we have is we have a faction of the Republican Party, in the House of Representatives in particular, that view ‘compromise’ as a dirty word, and anything that is remotely associated with me they feel obliged to oppose. My argument to them is simple: that’s not why the people sent you here.”
While many have tried to call the president and his administration “bumbling” in their handling of the Syrian crisis, historians say that the results are more important in history’s estimation than the process. So the fact that Russia and the U.S. have moved Syria to agree to allow weapons inspectors into the country, to ultimately destroy its chemical weapons, is more crucial than how they got there.
“If it works out in the end, the president’s allowed to be uncertain,” Tim Naftali, a former director of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, told NPR. “Oftentimes, the judgment you get during the crisis is not the judgment you get at the end.”
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called the deal “an act of provocative weakness on America’s part,” saying in a statement, “It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley.”
The White House is doing its own writing of history in its handling of the financial crisis, issuing a report on the fifth anniversary of the crisis, defending the “bold” economic-rescue measures undertaken by the Obama administration that worked better than anyone expected.
During a conference call with reporters, Gene Sperling, President Barack Obama’s top economic advisor, said the difficult decisions made by the administration across the banking sector, auto industry and in housing and finance, had stabilized the U.S. economy.
“The president undertook a series of bold, unprecedented and politically difficult measures in 2009 that have performed better than virtually anyone at the time predicted,” said Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.