Surely, hell has frozen over. Or so it must be, because today we can read a fact-based, full-throated positive assessment of President Obama's performance in office from (and here comes the other half of the hell freezing over part) a conservative. That would be Andrew Sullivan, writing for The Daily Beast and Newsweek, for which you can find the full text here.
First, let's get the partisan issue out of the way. Andrew Sullivan backed Mr. Obama in 2007 and 2008, as this excerpt from the Beast post reports:
I write this as an unabashed supporter of Obama from early 2007 on. I did so not as a liberal, but as a conservative-minded independent appalled by the Bush administration's record of war, debt, spending, and torture.
Nevertheless, Sullivan argues, his position is based on objective review of the Obama administration's performance delivering on his campaign promises, which, as I have previously written here, are all-the-more remarkable achievements in the context of Republican/Tea Party/Limbaugh pledges almost from Mr. Obama's very first days in office to obstruct his entire legislative and policy initiatives and to work for his defeat in 2012, as well as admonitions from disaffected liberals. Here's Sullivan's assessment in a nutshell:
...given the enormity of what he inherited, and given what he explicitly promised, it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb. Their short-term outbursts have missed Obama's long-term game — and why his reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country's future as his original election in 2008.
Here are the key Obama successes Sullivan cites in making his convincing case:
Bringing Osama bin Laden to justice
Ending the war in Iraq
Stopping illegal harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists
Lowering taxes for all Americans
Rescuing the U.S. economy from another Great Depression
Creating 1.9 million jobs — more than G.W. Bush's entire eight years
Saving the American auto industry and, with it, hundreds of thousands of jobs
Winning passage of a billions-of-dollars-saving health care reform measure
Reducing the size of the federal government
Enacting a host of other laws governing cuts in defense spending, support for marriage equality, gay rights, and ecological energy investments
Time and again, Sullivan compares the Obama record with that of Bush 2, and Obama wins handily, in the process saving the U.S. trillions of dollars and avoiding unrelenting warfare, with Libya being a notable example. Take taxes, for instance, a shibboleth of the right if there ever was one. Notes Sullivan:
Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms. Under Bush and the GOP, nondefense discretionary spending grew by twice as much as under Obama.
Another typically right-wing attack on Democrats, alleging weakness in foreign policy, also provides Sullivan with ample contrarian evidence of Obama's superior, long-term policy success.
By hanging back a little, by “leading from behind” in Libya and elsewhere, Obama has made other countries actively seek America’s help and reappreciate our role. As an antidote to the bad feelings of the Iraq War, it has worked close to perfectly.
But perhaps Sullivan's greatest triumph in this post is in pointing out how the right and its syncophantic punditocracy has denied Mr. Obama credit even for his most obvious successes. I especially like how Sullivan imagines what the lauditory reaction from the president's naysayers would be if the Obama record had been accomplished by Bush and hailed by the credit-hogging good-old-boy cheerleaders supporting today's right-wing extremism:
If George Bush had taken out bin Laden, wiped out al Qaeda’s leadership, and gathered a treasure trove of real intelligence by a daring raid, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now. But where Bush talked tough and acted counterproductively, Obama has simply, quietly, relentlessly decimated our real enemies, while winning the broader propaganda war.
Sullivan takes aim at left-leaning Obama critics as well, pointing out how both far left and far right complaints about the administration's activities and intentions often misunderstand the president's moderately liberal, long-term objectives. As Sullivan elucidates, anti-Obama liberals...
...have failed to notice that from the very beginning, Obama was playing a long game. He did this with his own party over health-care reform. He has done it with the Republicans over the debt. He has done it with the Israeli government over stopping the settlements on the West Bank — and with the Iranian regime, by not playing into their hands during the Green Revolution....
Perhaps the best part of Sullivan's latest treatment of the Obama administration's policy successes — for which he argues Mr. Obama deserves overwhelming voter support for a second term — is his refusal to play into the delusional partisanship on the part of both political extremes. In avoiding those dubious viewpoints, Sullivan stands virtually alone among the high-visibility voices in Washington, a refreshingly credible critic from the right who has the courage to weigh the facts and keep an open mind on big issues at a time when the rest of the blogosphere spins crazily out of touch with reality. His conclusion:
“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” George Orwell once wrote. What I see in front of my nose is a president whose character, record, and promise remain as grotesquely underappreciated now as they were absurdly hyped in 2008.
Though I am a liberal, I heartily concur with the conservative Mr. Sullivan when it comes to elucidating the case of President Obama's reelection. Watch out, job-destroying conservatives and purist liberals. I hear bipartisanship and effective government can be catching.