Thank you, President Obama

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With so much ugliness and negativity in this interminable presidential campaign, I thought I’d devote this final column before the historic election to something positive – thanking President Barack Obama for being such a class act.

Forced to deal with some of the nastiest people in the world and in America, Barack Obama has conducted himself with dignity and grace, honesty and good humor. Thank you, President Obama, for being such a decent human being. Imagine spending two terms as president of the United States without a single scandal.

And imagine raising two lovely daughters in the White House without incident. No wonder Michelle Obama is more popular than her husband or either major presidential candidate and has been rated by historians as one of the top five first ladies in history, in the company of Eleanor Roosevelt, Abigail Adams, Jackie Kennedy and Dolly Madison. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Obama, for being such a model American family.

Conservatives would like us to believe that Barack Obama has been a weak and ineffective president, that under his administration the U.S. economy has tanked and U.S. prestige has suffered around the world. Wrong! Big time!

Barack Obama inherited an economy in freefall and took strong, decisive measures to get it back under control. Between 2010 and 2016 the U.S. saw the largest sustained job growth since 1998, adding 800,000 jobs. The auto industry Obama rescued had all-time record sales in 2015. Production of clean, renewable energy has doubled. Unemployment has been cut in half. And the stock market is up 220 percent over 2009.

Yes, the whole world is plagued by terrorism, but that’s not Barack Obama’s fault. You might just as well blame Reagan and Bush Sr. for arming the Taliban and supporting Osama Bin Laden and George W. for invading Iraq based on the WMD lie. And the U.S. military that pseudo-patriots like to run down is as strong as ever. U.S. military spending now exceeds that of the next 11 countries combined.

And, oh yes, about that nonexistent border with Mexico that threatens the very existence of the United States in the addled pates of the alt-right, the Obama administration actually increased deportations over the Bush administration such that between 2010 and 2015 more Mexicans left the United States than entered it.

There are legitimate problems with the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature accomplishment, but it’s not as if health insurance rate increases were under control before Obamacare passed. If Republicans had helped work to make the program a success instead of fomenting the hysterical notion that health care mandates were an assault on American freedom maybe the ACA would be in better shape today. It needs reform, not repeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never been a huge, uncritical Obama fan. He’s progressive, but not progressive enough for me. I have problems with his approval of off-shore fracking and his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but (note to Republicans) you can’t expect a president to do everything you want her to do.

In the plus column, President Obama jump-started the economy with the stimulus package, saved the U.S. auto industry, tried to make good on Americans’ desire to get U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, eliminated Osama Bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak, renegotiated the START Treaty with Russia, re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba, ended the immediate threat of Iranian nuclear weapons and improved America’s image abroad.

Obama’s job approval rating one month before the election stood at 53 percent, placing him third among presidents since World War II behind Dwight Eisenhower (58 percent) and Bill Clinton (57 percent). “The function of posterity,” as poet Dylan Thomas wrote, “is to look after itself,” so we have no way of knowing how future Americans will view our country’s first African-American president. But if a 2015 poll of members of the American Political Science Association conducted by the Brookings Institution is any guide, Obama may fare well among our descendants.

No president can be expected to break into the Big Three of Lincoln, Washington and FDR, but the pros rated Obama a credible No. 18, below Clinton at 8, Reagan at 11 and JFK at 14, but way ahead of Ford at 24, Carter at 26, Nixon at 34 and George W. Bush at 35. My own gut feeling is that Obama’s star will rise greatly in the coming years. But let’s let comic Jimmy Fallon have the final word.

“Thank you, President Obama,” Fallon said in his “Thank You Card” sequence on the June 9 Tonight Show, “for serving our nation with dignity, class, patience, eloquence, optimism and integrity, thus marking the first time anyone has said, ‘Thanks, Obama.’”

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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