The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Will Obama’s legacy be remembered as lackluster?

His early focus on health care has distracted him from fulfilling campaign promises

Every president is defined by the major legislation passed during his time in office.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is famous for his New Deal legislation passed in the 1930s to pull our country out of the biggest economic crisis of our time.

Ronald Reagan will always be remembered for “Reaganomics,” his supply-side legislation and broad, across-the-board tax cuts.

In his first year as president, Barack Obama has been more productive than was George W. Bush—at least on paper.

It is true that Obama has passed nearly double the amount of legislation in the same amount of time as had his predecessor; however, one has to wonder if his legislation will affect us. Will his relentless effort to reform health care leave a lackluster legacy?

According to the White House’s official website, since his inauguration in January 2009, Obama has signed 17 pieces of legislation into law. Obama has also been busy writing 45 executive orders, giving 74 presidential memorandums and 104 proclamations.
All this he has accomplished in a 14-month time period—in other words, the president has been a busy boy.

But has he been busy fulfilling the promises at the heart of his campaign? During the 2008 election, Obama focused on all the things he would “do when [he’s] President of the United States,” a phrase he used 16 times in the October 2008 presidential debates. Obama promised to reform health care in the United States, end the war in Iraq, pull the economy up and reform Social Security.

So far, out of the 17 pieces of legislation with Obama’s signature on them, arguably only three are aimed towards any of the goals Obama so fiercely supported. 

The “Helping Families Save Their Homes Act,” “Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act” and “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” were all meant to stimulate and support the economy.

However, the rest of the 14 remaining acts ranged from legislation supporting volunteerism, extensions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and various military expansion acts—a surprising fact considering Obama was promising an end to the war in Iraq.

Conversely, in his first 14 months Bush passed nine pieces of legislation, barely half the amount of his successor. However, the situations of the two presidencies were very different.

Bush’s 2000 campaign hinged on tax cuts, reinvigorating the military, restoring civility to the political system and overhauling the Medicare, Social Security and public education systems.

His first two pieces of legislation (pre 9/11) accomplished some of these goals; his famous tax cuts and “Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001” hit two of his goals on the head.

After 9/11, Bush had to completely rethink his presidency and throw out his plans. The remaining acts of that year focused on fighting terrorism and making what friends we could in the Middle East.

Then, in 2002, Bush jumped right back on his platform and passed “No Child Left Behind” to combat the poor public education system. This was followed shortly by the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002,” an attempt to restore civility to politics.

Despite a national crisis and an unplanned military conflict, Bush was able to stick to his guns and sign legislation he had promised into law.

Thus, the question is raised: Why hasn’t Obama been making his mark on history as Bush did?  Instead of doing that, he has been traveling around the country, basically campaigning for his health care reform platform. However, he hasn’t been listening to the country—which has responded with surprising gusto.

In his relentless effort to pass health care reform, Obama is walking a fine line between making history and falling through its pages.

Claire Sanderson is a junior CCPA and political science double major. She can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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