How would you grade President Obama on his presidency in 2 areas: domestic policy results and foreign policy results?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There is no easy answer to this question because it often takes 30–40 years after a president has left office to really evaluate the effects of his policies as president.  Going on the short term often leads to inaccurate conclusions.  With that caveat in mind, I would rate the president higher on domestic issues than foreign issues.  Clearly, the Affordable Health Care Act is his signature accomplishment.  It was one of the ideas he expressed from the beginning that he wanted to accomplish.  Whether one agrees with the concept of national care or not, there are more people with health insurance now.  We can debate the affordability of health care, but the numbers are clear that more people have health insurance today than had it in 2008.  The economy has also picked up.  Our economy had fallen drastically around the time of the election of 2008. Unemployment has dropped from 9% to about 5.5%.  The question that needs to be answered is what kind of jobs are being created.  There is some concern that the new jobs are lower-paying ones with few benefits.  Thus, while more people are getting work, are they able to support a decent way of life?  This is still up for debate.  There has been a huge backlash in the area of education.  Common Core and the huge amounts of testing are being heavily criticized.  Studies suggest our kids are way behind students in other industrialized countries.  His grade now would be a C+ or B-.

In foreign policy, there are more concerns.  The war in Iraq has ended.  In addition, our number one enemy was killed.  These are big accomplishments.  Terror threats continue to increase and new groups are forming.  These groups present serious threats to the US.  The recent treaty with Iran is a very controversial one.  If it passes, only time will tell if it is a good one.  Many say it is a bad deal for the US and the world.  The scandal regarding Hilary Clinton's personal email use also is a negative mark for the president.  These kinds of things just can't happen.  US-Israel relations have been very tense.  We are on much less solid ground with the only democracy in the Middle East.  His overall grade would be a D+ or a C-.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This answer is going to generate much in way of discussion and debate because there cannot be one right answer here.  In short, I give him a B- in one realm and a C- in another.

My metric for grading the President in domestic policy lies in his ability to accomplish what he set out to do. In terms of domestic policy, I would give the President a B-. There are some very strong areas where the President earns credit. One such area is in health care. It was a monumental task and he paid a very heavy political price for it. However, the Affordable Care Act is a part of American legislation and has been substantiated by the Supreme Court and Congress. While it has been the subject of intense political debate, the reality is that more people have health care because of it. There were some very definite areas of improvement needed in terms of its rollout and some harsh early perception of it. The President and his team could have done more to deliver a better product here. However, the legislation has ensured that the "rate of uninsured Americans decreased by 35 percent. That is the biggest improvement in 40 years." The President's marks reflect this strength, and I would commend him in being able to get health care legislation passed. It has never been done on this scale.

The President also receives credit for navigating the nation through its economic perils of 2008. Factors such as unemployment rate, economic growth, and consumer confidence have improved under the Obama administration. While many of the policies have not been radically different than those of the Bush Administration, the economic uptick coincided with his Presidency. Right or wrong, I would explain that he receives credit for it. The economy rolls in cycles and he averted the negative cycle during his leadership. 

However, this has to be tempered with what I see as a domestic failure regarding gun violence. On some level, I would explain to the President that he has to own how his administration has been littered with sad events of gun violence. American violence with firearms has been staggering during the Obama Presidency. This is not necessarily his fault. However, I believe that his success domestically has to be tempered by the fact that innocent Americans throughout the nation are dying at the hands of gun violence. 

In foreign policy, I give the President a C-. In explaining my grade to the President, I would tell him that "getting Bin Laden" earns much of his grade. If we presume that Osama Bin Laden was a significant threat to the nation, the President receives credit for removing him. At the same time, his foreign policy perception has been shifted from the unilateral bluster of the Bush administration to a more cooperative  and international venture. The perception and demeanor of the foreign policy is more nuanced and analytical. Nations read America a bit differently as a result of the Obama administration. This perception is more in line with the globalized paradigm in which the world operates.

However, there are some challenges to his success. The first is that while the foreign policy perception is better in an Obama administration, the vision is still lacking. There is no clear vision as to how to deal with worldwide threats, such as the so-called Islamic State. The President is either extremely nuanced in his approach or is still "gathering data." However, beheadings still continue, and the so- called Islamic State terror is not abating. The President has to experience some low marks in this regard.

I really mark the President down in his use of drones. The Obama Administration will set an undesirable precedent in its use of drone technology. While its benefits have been well stated in terms of gathering intelligence and minimizing armed force casualties, I think that its use has become excessive under the Obama Administration. Americans inadvertently killed in drone attacks, civilians from other countries targeted without much accountability or oversight, and a general demeanor that an American menace haunts the sky are not very positive legacies to one's foreign policy. When the President speaks of "upholding American values" in his foreign policy, a case has not been made about how drone technology accomplishes this. When children from nations testify about this, the President's failures become stunning:

Zubair ur Rehman is afraid of blue skies. After all, it was a bright, clear day when his grandmother, Mamana Bibi was killed by a drone strike in a field outside of his home in Pakistan’s Waziristan region.

“When the sky brightens and becomes blue, the drones return and so does the fear,” the thirteen-year-old told members of Congress at a briefing organized by Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, yesterday.

In the most symbolic form, when children from other countries are afraid of blue skies and sunny days because of America, its foreign policy has to be reevaluated. The President has to own this and I would remind him that there is time to curtail this sad legacy and that his grade is far from final.

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