By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Today's news, that President Obama wants to open up some of America's vast offshore oil and gas fields for exploration and drilling, will no doubt disappoint conservationists, and beachgoers who like their sand spotless and not freckled with tar.
But it confirms Obama's status as a pragmatist who does not deserve the portrait of an ideological zealot that has been painted by the Right.
Indeed, this is a president who seems likely to go down in history as a great, practical Fix-It Man.
The United States was a happy, self-satisfied, and somewhat self-indulgent place in 2001, when the terrorists struck. Yes, our politics was mean and tawdry. But we had a balanced budget and we were on track to pay off our debt. We had won the Cold War. The future looked good. The big debate was over how much to cut taxes: a modest amount, said the Democrats; a lot, said the Republicans.
Then al Qaeda struck, searing the souls of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, who spent most of the following eight years consumed by the needs of the war on terror. Yes, some other stuff got done. Bush and the Republican Congress tackled a serious problem with Medicare, which was not covering the cost of prescription drugs. But we put the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "off-budget," and the Republican Congress set off on a spending spree. For eight years, as we focused on Islam, the United States drifted.
A lot of problems can pile up in a decade, including those that helped create the big economic Crash of 2008. The voters gave Congress back to the Democrats, and elected Obama in 2008, to get things done.
Well, you may not like how they are doing it, but the Democrats, led by the White House, are getting things done.
First off, of course, was the financial crisis. And saving the auto industry. Mortgage relief. Iraq. Then the war in Afghanistan. Education reform. Credit card reforms. Then healthcare, with more work on Medicare (ending the subsidy for mall-walking and closing the donut hole in the drug benefit), and an overhaul of the student loan program. Then a long-needed strategic arms treaty with the Russians. The end of witch hunts for gays in the military. Now offshore drilling and--making their way through the energy pipeline--electric cars, wind turbines, a smart grid, new nuclear power plants, and some sort of measure addressing global warming.
All in a little more than a year.
There is plenty of unfinished business. Unemployment. Iran, China, Palestine, North Korea. Gitmo. Tax reform. Social Security. More Medicare fixes. And, most of all, the trillion-dollar budget deficit.
But the Obama administration is, every day, looking more productive.