Political Scientists Evaluate Obama’s Presidency
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Good-natured banter peppered the serious political discussion at the nonpartisan Obama evaluation panel last Tuesday night, in which professors Marc Landy, David Deese, and Alan Wolfe discussed the accomplishments and shortcomings of President Barack Obama’s first term.
The event, sponsored by the Americans for Informed Democracy, sought to present a balanced assessment of the president’s performance thus far, centering on issues including foreign policy, healthcare, and the economy. Landy, Wolfe, and Deese of the political science department shared their conflicting opinions regarding Obama’s response to these issues, a partisan divide at times penetrating the rigidly objective atmosphere.
Obama’s foreign policy, for example, proved to be a major point of contention among the panel. The tone of the discussion initially favored Obama’s efforts abroad.
“He’s done a pretty good job of winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, given the situation that he was handed … given the fact that this was a president who opposed these wars in the first place,” Deese said.
Wolfe also approved of Obama’s efforts to distance the country from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel. Landy, however, was not so glowing in his analysis of Obama’s foreign initiatives, arguing against the viewpoints of his esteemed colleagues.
“He has never been to Israel,” Landy said. “He has never been to Warsaw. That means of the few genuine friends that the United States has in the world, he’s only been to Britain and Canada.”
This symbolic absence, argued Landy, has contributed to the alienation of several key American allies, a deliberate and avoidable administrational failure.
As the discussions shifted to healthcare, Landy and his fellow panelists were similarly divided.
Obama’s healthcare plan, according to Wolfe, was a good one. “[The plan] would accomplish a significant social objective: providing medical insurance to people who didn’t have it,” Wolfe said. “And yet it would reduce the deficit … by bringing greater rationalization to government expenditures.”
Landy, however, did not echo Wolfe’s faith in Obama’s legislation.
“Somewhere between half a trillion to 740 billion dollars has to come out of Medicare—that means reduced payments to physicians.”
Throughout the night, a friendly, respectful rivalry arose between professors Landy and Wolfe, their partisan affiliations thinly concealed.
Their disagreement over the fiscal loss or gain involved in the healthcare plan was left unresolved—neither side yielded significant ground.
A question concerning the effectiveness of the bailouts changed the focus of the discussion to the economy and its role in the election.
“The crucial state of Ohio is actually pretty much recovered economically,” Wolfe said. “Jobs are there, people see it, [and] they attribute it to Obama. In that sense, you can’t talk about the national economy—you have to talk about the economy in various states, and on the ground they look a little better than some of the indicators.”
Landy again clashed with Wolfe’s assertions, highlighting the incredibly low job-seeking rate and downplaying the government’s role in the recovery.
While thinly veiled partisan divisions did surface at times during the discussion, the panelists maintained an air of objectivity.