WASHINGTON – Wow! Is President Obama on a roll or what?
Even without knowing the latest news, you can tell something is up by the glowering super conservatives and the grinning ultra-liberals. The rest of us are just watching in amazement at what seems like a kaleidoscope of change.
And, now, relations with Cuba! OK, no more exclamation points. But Obama is sending Secretary of State John Kerry on the first diplomatic mission to Cuba since 1945. For the first time since 1961 Cuba will have a U.S. embassy.
In rapid succession, we have seen the Supreme Court rule in favor of same-sex marriage equality, supported by Obama, and uphold the legality of Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.
One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag, symbolic of racism and rebellion against the United States, is finally ceasing to be flown over public buildings.
Obama has moved to give millions of workers, who sometimes work 90 hours a week without overtime, a shot at being paid fairly. It’s not perfect and some unscrupulous employers may simply cut hours and spread the work around underpaid employees. But it is a start, and national recognition that millions of Americans have been shafted at the workplace while business profits are at historic highs.
In part because of worker demonstrations and Obama’s demand for a higher minimum wage, more cities and states are acting to raise wages.
Obama is trying hard to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. It may not be possible, but naysayers to his plan simply do not understand realpolitik in today’s complicated world. No longer can the U.S. dictate outcomes to diplomatic crises.
No longer can the U.S. send troops and end chaos and civil war, such as in Syria. Some days it seems we have learned nothing from the lives lost and ruined in Iraq and Afghanistan and the trillion dollars lost to our economy, money that we desperately needed to rebuild our infrastructure and improve our schools. Obama ended those wars, the longest in our history.
Too many forget that when Obama became president, the nation was deep in recession and headed for all-out depression. You may well argue with the means he used, but there is no doubt we dodged what could easily have turned into an economic calamity.
Everyone agrees our immigration system is broken and that this is hurting millions of families. For decades Congress has been unable to agree on any solutions. Obama is using his executive authority to tell more than 4 million immigrants that if they have been here at least five years, can pass a background check and pay their taxes, they have a shot at temporarily staying in this country without fear of being deported.
Obama is not a great president. And it is undeniable we tend to blame our political leaders for our troubles even though those troubles are getting more complicated.
But this president does not deserve the passionate hatred, condescension and derision poured upon him by millions of Americans. He has not delivered on many of the promises he made, notably making Washington work again. It’s probably true that in this climate nobody could do that.
Certainly not the nation’s first black president whom Republican leaders vowed to block at every turn – beginning when he had barely been inaugurated.
Amid the happy celebrations of the birth of the nation this month, Americans are rightly worried about their future in a chaotic world. But it is not true that the country is not improving; we are. It is not true that our promise has been tarnished; we remain the hope of the world.
We are a work in progress. And that’s how it should be. We didn’t peak after the Revolutionary War or World War II. We make mistakes, which we did when we had slaves. When we went to war in Iraq. When we treated immigrants as less than human. Eventually, we learn from them.
When the president has a good week or two, we should not be dismayed. We should rejoice. For 18 more months he’s the only president we have.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.