The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Change hard to come by in Obama’s first term

It seems as if the only thing we can know with absolute certainty when it comes to politicians is that they’re going to in one form or another lie, manipulate or distort the truth at some point in their public life in order to achieve certain political agendas. It’s just the nature of our political environment. President Obama would never have been elected last year without endless hours of sweet talking big campaign donors, shaking hands with the right people and telling everyonewhat he knew they wanted to hear.

Right or wrong, there’s a method to being elected in a democracy, and that’s just the way it is. The method involves making connections, understanding what people want, and being able to talk up a positive whirlwind around your political platform. If you’re not willing to sit down at a table and call endless potential supporters, then you’re not going very far. If you don’t understand the phony element in democratic campaigning, you’re unaware of how mass appeal works.

President Obama accomplished this, and entered the White House last January on the cusp of the most compelling election of our generation. We watched an unlikely Senator from Illinois snowball a grassroots campaign into a movement of political change that set racial and historical precedent. Last year, Barack Obama became the people’s president and America’s savior, even though he was yet to actually accomplish

anything in the Oval Office.

Needless to say, President Obama’s approval rating was high a year ago; but his first year as President has seen his approval rating steadily decline, hovering around the 50 percent mark. So far the President’s finest hours have come at times when his political agenda was not even directly involved, such as last week in the aftermath of devastation in Haiti when he quickly addressed the world in an emotional speech, pledging $100 million and somewhere near 5,000

military personnel in relief effort.

But for many people it seems that, like last January, we’re still a country that is desperate for Obama’s message of hope, and that his promise of “change” has not yet come to fruition. On Dec. 1, Obama announced that he was shipping 30,000 additional troops to the Middle East. This came from the same man who, a year earlier, pledged to end President

Bush’s unproductive war in Iraq.

Last January before his inauguration, the Huffington Post published an article in which Obama said that his primary goal was to implement his “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,” an effort which would “not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term.” In retrospect, the President’s first year in office has seemingly done little to fulfill this statement; in fact, some might argue he’s acted counterintuitive to it. Obama’s biggest political achievement this year has not been that of economic recovery, but rather pushing a healthcare reform bill that some experts claim will cost the country around $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years -and this at a time when our economy is in more trouble than it has been since the Great Depression.

So while Americans continue to scramble for work, students desperately try to continue funding their educations, and American poverty remains grossly inflamed, the President has committed the majority of his power to shoving a reform bill down the throats of his fellow Democrats and concocting ways to manipulate Republican leaders. Obama’s haste to reinvent the healthcare system has prevented any meaningful reform from actually happening and created a bill that most Americans do not understand. The result is a watered down bill that won’t succeed in changing the deepest rooted problems of this country’s healthcare system.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Obama’s first year in office, it’s that he’s not the complete and final answer to all of America’s problems. I’ve supported him and his presidency since he announced his campaign a few years ago, but it’s a reality that Obama can talk the talk much better than he can walk the walk.

And this isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. No president can solve all the problems facing the nation. Perhaps the most important thing a president can do is lead while inspiring hope and optimism in their people, something that Obama continues to do remarkably well. Presidents don’t have unlimited power to change things completely and instantly; they can’t end a war as if it were an Xbox game. There’s no reverse button on the President’s desk for putting the economy back on track and the political diversity of our democracy ensures that anything a president wants to accomplish will be

met with adversity and sacrifice.

President Obama has said himself that nothing can change overnight and that the patience of the American people is vital.

Yes, the nation is still trillions of dollars in debt, fighting an endless war in the Middle East, struggling with a healthcare system that leaves millions unprotected, and facing a host of other intense issues. But try to withhold harping on Obama for not delivering a saving grace in his first year in office. It’s very easy to expect amazing (and unrealistic) things from a guy who speaks with such inspiring tones, but always keep in mind, Obama is just another exceptional politician.

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