One of the most-read posts here on Occasional Planet continues to be “President Obama’s 244 accomplishments.” Since it first appeared in 2010, that post has garnered thousands of clicks [and some updates] and has had several surges that place it on our weekly Google Analytics top 10 again and again. Why? I have a theory that despite all of the carping from the left—and, of course, the hatred and vitriolic propaganda from the right—many of us still think that that President Obama is essentially a good president whose heart is in the right place, and who has accomplished many positive things for our country, in the face of overwhelming opposition and obstructionism. We want to be reassured that we’re correct in that notion—so we search for confirming evidence. And a list called “244 accomplishments” makes us feel pretty darn good about our view of the President.
So, it’s heartening to be able to add to that list in 2012. Here are three new items and one possibility.
Saying no to Keystone XL Pipeline
The 60-day deadline Republicans in Congress placed on a decision about the controversial oil pipeline from Canada to the Midwest backfired, when on January 18, 2012 President Obama said:
As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment. As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied. And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree.
The decision, while further stirring ire among Republicans, was a political victory, good news for the environment and a principled stand that the left can applaud.
Recess appointment of Richard Cordray
On Jan. 5, 2012, President Obama announced his decision to use his executive power to bypass Congress and put Richard Cordray in charge at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The move came after months of maneuverings by Senate Republicans to block Cordray, holding his appointment hostage to changes in the CFPB’s structure that would gut the agency’s powers.
According to Huffington Post, in his announcement, President Obama said:
Today, I’m appointing Richard as America’s consumer watchdogThat means he’ll be in charge of one thing: looking out for the best interest of American consumers. His job will be to protect families like yours from the abuses of the financial industry. His job will be to make sure you’ve got all the information you need to make important financial decisions.
Huffington Post continues:
Obama called it “inexcusable” and “wrong” that CFPB still doesn’t have a director since beginning operations in July. He said while he will continue to “look for every opportunity to work with Congress” to boost the economy, he has “an obligation as president to do what I can without them,” hence the recess appointment.
“I will not stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people they were elected to serve,” the president said to applause. “Not when so much is at stake. Not at this make-or-break moment for the middle class.”
Guaranteeing full access to contraception under ACA
On Jan. 20, 2012, the Obama administration announced that, under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, the vast majority of employer-based health insurance plans must cover preventive services for women, including contraception, without charging a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible. This means all women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of preventive services originally recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), including all FDA-approved forms of contraception.
And one to hope for…
Under a little-known clause in the omnibus bill passed by Congress in December 2011, the president is empowered to issue an executive order that would require companies with government contracts to reveal their political contributions. This policy has been under discussion since April 2011, when a draft executive order along those lines was leaked, causing a furor among—who else?—corporations who don’t want their contributions revealed—and the politicians who receive them. Such a policy would help counteract the already-evident effect of massive corporate spending unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling of 2010. President Obama could make his own important contribution to a more democratic and transparent election system by issuing this order.
As the 2012 election campaign gathers steam, let’s keep looking at that list of accomplishments, hoping that we can add to it, comparing it to what the right has failed to do [and threatens to do if they win the Presidency], and understanding the differences and implications.
Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.