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Obama Presidency, The

A Preliminary Assessment

Robert P. Watson, Jack Covarrubias, Tom Lansford, Douglas M. Brattebo

Publication Year: 2012

Lively and engaging essays covering President Obama’s domestic and foreign policy, governing style, and character.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. c-ii

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Barack Obama’s presidency is a pivotal one by any historical standard. It came at a time of dramatic political change in the United States and amidst a bewildering array of domestic and foreign policy crises, not the least of which were two wars he inherited from his predecessor and the worst economic conditions—record deficits, massive debt, and a deep recession—since the Great Depression ...

I Introduction

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Chapter 1: Rating Presidents and Assessing Obama

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pp. 3-18

Evaluating presidents is a challenging and controversial endeavor. Yet, everyone with an opinion seems to get in on the action— whether it is a group of scholars working on a book, a public opinion approval poll taken by the media, a panel of commentators on a television talk show, or a group of co-workers huddled around the office water cooler. Indeed, in America there is a natural inclination ...

II Character and Identity

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Chapter 2: Rhetoric and Image

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pp. 21-36

On June 8, 2010, in an interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, President Barack Obama uttered a word so lewd that it spun media pundits into a frenzy, made American mothers cover their children’s ears, and inspired 28,000 Internet headlines. What Obama said was the word “ass.” The “A” word, in this context, was not censored by the Federal Communications Commission...

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Chapter 3: Obama’s Lincoln Image to Ideology

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pp. 37-50

Most individuals have personal heroes, perhaps an individual who was president of the United States. For example, the presidents themselves had heroes, some of whom were other presidents. Theodore Roosevelt always claimed that Abraham Lincoln was his personal hero. As such, when confronted with challenges, Roosevelt tried to emulate what he thought the Great Emancipator might...

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Chapter 4: The Optimist and the Realist

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pp. 51-66

In 2007, a tired Barack Obama said to the somewhat disinterested David Brooks, “Reinhold Niebuhr is one of my favorite philosophers” (Brooks 2007). Given the aggressive charges made against Obama by opponents on the political right, this was a somewhat unexpected comment. As far as history goes, the most recent president ...

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Chapter 5: Obamania in Europe

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pp. 67-82

Obama’s election in 2008 was undoubtedly an historic event both in the United States and around the world, and the election itself was closely watched by media worldwide. Numerous articles, editorials, and political commentaries in the European press reacted to Obama’s election with strong emotions. For instance, on November ...

III Politics and Leadership

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Chapter 6: The First Hundred Days FDR and Obama

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pp. 85-98

In his 1933 inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) did not state that the first hundred days of his presidency would have any policymaking or historical significance (Woolley and Peters 2010: 14473). Shortly after becoming president, FDR decided not to let Congress adjourn as scheduled. Instead, he called it into special session, which lasted one hundred days until June 16, 1933...

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Chapter 7: Legislative Leadership

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pp. 99-112

Barack Obama came to the presidency vowing to work with Congress. Headlines in blogs and newspapers all over the country reported variations of the theme, even before his inauguration, that as president-elect he had gone out of his way to consult (see, e.g., “Obama Builds” 2009). A few months later, reports indicated that he was working diligently to encourage Congress, itself, to...

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Chapter 8: The Firing of General Stanley McChrystal

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pp. 113-128

On Monday evening, June 21, 2010, the nation’s capital began to buzz over the impending release of an article in Rolling Stone magazine, “The Runaway General,” by freelance writer Michael Hastings. In the piece, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, a four-star officer and the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and his aides spoke disparagingly of almost every senior member...

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Chapter 9: 2010 Midterm Election

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pp. 129-142

The 2010 midterm election served as a decisive coda to Barack Obama’s first two years as president. His party not only lost its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives but did so in a spectacular fashion, surrendering more House seats to the opposition than any party in a congressional election in over sixty years. And although Democrats still controlled the U.S. Senate, the party’s...

IV Domestic Policy

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Chapter 10: U.S. Auto Industry Rescue

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pp. 145-160

The presidency of Barack Obama began with high expectations built up over a heated and historic campaign. The president was presented with a number of challenges when he took office and any one of them could be used as a metric to determine his success. The rescue of the domestic automobile industry is particularly well suited to this endeavor because the contemporary case has ...

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Chapter 11: Environmental Policy and Global Climate Change

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pp. 161-182

Although there have been at least six modern presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) who have had a positive impact in shaping environmental policy, no one president has been so successful that we could call him the environmental president. Conservation was a high priority for FDR, and, as a result, he was given credit for ushering in the “Golden Age of Conservation.” ...

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Chapter 12: Food and Agricultural Policy

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pp. 183-196

The United States is no longer a nation of farmers, but the food and agricultural policymaking process is important as all Americans are stakeholders in those policy outcomes. Most presidents have an opportunity to shape food and agricultural policy, primarily through general farm legislation (the Farm Bill), but the Obama administration’s efforts to influence food and agricultural ...

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Chapter 13: Health Care Reform

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pp. 197-212

After a century of failed efforts, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into Law on March 23, 2010. The health reform law regulates private health insurance and extends public and private insurance to millions of Americans. Nevertheless, the full implementation of the new law is uncertain. Its complexity and long implementation timeline limited...

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Chapter 14: Response to the Gulf Oil Spill

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pp. 213-228

Directly following an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010 substantial quantities of oil began to flow from a partially drilled well on the Gulf of Mexico’s seafloor. Following the initial days of the Gulf oil spill (or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill), political debate centered on questions over who should take the lead in the short- and long-term response and clean-up ...

V Foreign Policy and National Security

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Chapter 15: Inherited Wars Afghanistan and Iraq

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pp. 231-246

Throughout U.S. history, newly elected presidents have inherited conflicts from their predecessors. The regularity of presidential elections every four years has meant that wars or conflicts have overlapped the terms of U.S. chief executives. This trend accelerated in the twentieth century as the United States assumed a broader role in regional and global affairs and then emerged as a ...

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Chapter 16: Iran Policy

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pp. 247-262

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack H. Obama pledged to employ constructive engagement as a means to help reduce the threats adversaries posed to the interests of the United States and its allies, placing an emphasis on one such state in particular— Iran. Yet, since his election as America’s forty-fourth president, Obama has refined that approach in dealing with Iran. He has ...

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Chapter 17: China Policy

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pp. 263-276

Forty years ago, what was referred to as “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” opened the door for talks between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. A few months later in 1971, a visit by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to China helped pave the way for the historical handshake between President Richard Nixon and China’s Chairman Mao. The next logical step in the relationship— ...

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Chapter 18: Counterterrorism Policy

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pp. 277-297

The record of the Bush administration in the aftermath of 9/11 includes the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the disruption of al-Qaeda’s power infrastructure, and the capture or killing of some of the terrorist organization’s worst actors. However, it also included a violation of international as well as domestic legal standards related to torture, subjecting alleged terrorist ...

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Chapter 19: Obama, Libya, and War Powers

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pp. 297-313

In 2011, President Barack Obama found himself involved in three wars, two inherited and one of his own making. Upon taking office, he decided to escalate the war in Afghanistan by sending in 30,000 additional troops. It was his expectation that he could begin withdrawing U.S. troops by fall 2011, but how quickly they could be withdrawn was uncertain, nor was it clear that Afghanistan had ...

VI The Obama Administration

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Chapter 20: The Policy Czar Debate

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pp. 315-342

As has become the tradition during the first days of a new legislative session, dozens of bills and resolutions were filed in January 2011 as the newly installed Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and his fellow Republicans ushered in the start of the 112th Congress. The legislation filed ran the gamut from proposed initiatives to repeal the comprehensive health care reform passed in ...

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Chapter 21: Unilateral Directives

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pp. 343-362

Barack Obama was elected president in part because of his promise to move beyond traditional political conflicts and to unite a divided country. He campaigned by assuring voters “Yes we can” bring about real change, in terms of both the substance and tone of politics. Yet, the president’s many critics contend that he has not yet lived up to that promise. But that sort of political appeal remains ...

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Chapter 22: Vice President Joe Biden

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pp. 363-378

The vice presidency, which has historically been a rather peculiar office, has witnessed an increase in stature and prominence as well as influence in the past thirty years. The uniqueness of the vice presidency stems from the traversing authority and responsibility it has to two branches of government, as established by the Constitution. No other national office suffers from similar ambiguity....

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Chapter 23: First Lady Michelle Obama

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pp. 379-398

Controversy is nothing new for The New Yorker magazine whose covers have featured Osama bin Laden riding on the subway in New York City and Barack Obama in bed with Hillary Clinton while the phone rings in the background (a clever reference to candidate Clinton’s negative TV ad against her then-Senate colleague asking who Americans wanted answering the phone in the middle...

VII Conclusion

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Chapter 24: Making History

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pp. 401-418

This book is the byproduct of a conference (“The Obama Presidency: A Preliminary Assessment”) convened at the University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Gulf Coast campus in Long Beach, Mississippi on November 19–20, 2010. An assortment of scholars, academicians, policy analysts, and the like gathered to attempt that most challenging of tasks for presidency watchers: Characterizing...

Appendix A: Barack Obama Biography

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pp. 419-420

Appendix B: The Obama Administration

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pp. 421-422


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pp. 423-430


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pp. 431-445

E-ISBN-13: 9781438443300
E-ISBN-10: 1438443307
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438443294
Print-ISBN-10: 1438443293

Page Count: 457
Publication Year: 2012