The Presidents of the USA



Barack Obama
Made history as the first African American president. Sweeping changes in healthcare, education, climate. finance. Obamacare was a defining issue. Economy bounced back but growth was anemic. Foreign policy left the world more insecure.

Born August 4, 1961, Honolulu, H
Political PartyDemocrat
EducationColumbia University, Law School
Military Service none
Previous public office ♦ Illinois state senate,1997-2004;  ♦ US senator, Illinois, 2005-2008
picture of Barack Obama

Early Life

Obama was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, HI. His father, an economist, was born in Kenya and his mother was born in Kansas. At the time of Obama's birth, both his parents were students at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old, the couple was divorced and Ann Obama then married another East-West Center student from Indonesia.

Obama was raised, mostly in Hawaii, by his late mother and grandparents. He graduated from Columbia University in New York and received his law degree, graduating magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. He became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review and later worked as a civil rights lawyer and as a community organizer in New York and Chicago.

Political Career

Obama was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1997, where he served as chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee. He and his wife, Michelle, are the parents of two daughters.

He was the third African-American to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention when he took the stage at the 2004 convention in Boston, MA. A few months later, the former law professor at the University of Chicago became the fifth African-American US senator in history, winning with a landslide 70% of the vote.

On February 10, 2007, Obama entered the race for President of the United States. The competition for Democratic nominee was narrowed down fairly quickly to be a race between Obama, the first serious African American candidate, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first serious woman candidate for US president. In the end, Obama beat Clinton and then the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain.


Early in his first term in office, Obama signed into law economic stimulus legislation in response to the 2007-2009 recession in the United States in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.

Other major domestic initiatives in his first term include the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; the Don''t Ask, Don''t Tell Repeal Act of 2010; the Budget Control Act of 2011; and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

In foreign policy, Obama ended U.S. military involvement in the Iraq War, increased troop levels in Afghanistan, signed the New START arms control treaty with Russia, ordered U.S. military involvement in Libya, and ordered the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

In May 2012, he became the first sitting U.S. president to publicly support allowing same-sex couples to legally marry.

He was re-elected president in November 2012, defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and was sworn in for a second term on January 20, 2013

Obama found himself grappling with an international crisis in late August and September 2013 when it was discovered that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against civilians.

The president worked to persuade Congress and the international community at large to take action against Syria, but found a majority on Capitol Hill opposed to military involvement. Obama then announced an alternative solution by stating that if al-Assad agreed with the stipulations outlined in a proposal made by Russia to give up its chemical weapons, then a direct strike against the nation could be avoided. Al-Assad acknowledged the possession of chemical weapons and ultimately accepted the Russian proposal.

Echoes of the Cold War returned after civil unrest and protests in the capital city of Kiev led to the downfall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. Russian troops crossed into Ukraine to support pro-Russian forces and the annexation of the province of Crimea. In response, Obama ordered economic sanctions.

In August 2014, Obama ordered the first airstrikes against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which had seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria and conducted high-profile beheadings of foreign hostages. This, despite the pledge to keep combat troops out of the conflict.

In 2014, Obama reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years. The policy change came after the exchange of American citizen Alan Gross and another unnamed American intelligence agent for three Cuban spies.

In July 2015, Obama announced that, after lengthy negotiations, the United States and five world powers had reached an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. The deal would allow inspectors entry into Iran to make sure the country kept its pledge to limit its nuclear program and enrich uranium at a much lower level than would be needed for a nuclear weapon.

In August 2015, the Obama administration announced The Clean Power Plan, a major climate change plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from coal-burning power plants in the United States. President Obama called the plan the "single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change."

Under the new regulations, states will be allowed to create their own plans to reduce emissions and are required to submit initial plans by 2016 and final versions by 2018.

In November 2015, Obama further demonstrated his commitment to environmental issues as a primary player in the international summit held outside of Paris, France. Addressing the gathered representatives of nearly 200 countries, Obama acknowledged the United States’ position as the second-largest climate polluter and the nation’s primary responsibility to do something about it. The resulting Paris Agreement requires all participating nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit the rise of global temperatures over the ensuing century and also to allocate resources for the research and development of alternative energy sources.


The assessment for Barack Obama’s legacy in 2012, when he won re-election convincingly over Mitt Romney, must have been like this: On foreign policy, reasonably high marks: Osama bin Laden dead (good), disengagement from Iraq without disaster (good), no major wars or catastrophic blunders (very good).

On the economy, lower grades: a depression averted, but record deficits, stagnant growth and stubborn elevated unemployment. On Obamacare, his signature achievement, a grade of incomplete, awaiting its implementation.

However, four years later, in 2016, at the end of his presidency, several of those assessments could be essentially reversed. His economic stewardship looks more impressive than it did in 2012: The United States hasn’t escaped the stagnation trap entirely, but unemployment has fallen well below the levels that even Romney promised to deliver.
His foreign policy record, on the other hand, looks worse: The Iraq withdrawal paved a path for the Islamic State, Vladimir Putin repeatedly seemed to outmaneuver the Americans, and globally the Pax Americana is at its wobbliest since the Cold War.

Not to mention that in electoral politics, instead of the great Obama realignment, the end result was a Democratic Party reduced to rubble and the staggering ascent of Donald Trump.

The truth is that the American economy did recover, slowly but more robustly than in much of the developed world, and again and again the dooms predicted by Obama’s Republican adversaries failed to materialize.

Meanwhile Obamacare, while a mess in certain ways, is messier on a smaller scale than its critics feared: Health cost inflation isn’t spiraling and employers aren’t dumping people on to the exchanges in huge numbers; there are many losers but the insurance expansion is large enough to matter.
And that expansion, and with it the promise of near universal health insurance, will be extremely difficult (morally as well as politically) for Republicans to unwind.

Less retrospective credit will be extended to Obama’s foreign policy, however. Hawks and doves will bicker about whether he intervened too much or too little, but the reality is that he was simply halfhearted and ineffective in far too many cases, pursuing pre-existing ambitions (Iran, climate change, a settlement-obsessed approach to Israel-Palestine) when the crises of the day required more resolute attention.

He was just hawkish enough to intervene in Libya, to poor effects, and irresolutely dovish in Syria. He drew unwise red lines and then emboldened adversaries by abandoning them, kind-of-sort-of tried to keep American troops in Iraq but didn’t make it a priority, and then had his secretary of state chasing an always-implausible Israel-Palestine deal while the Islamic State was on the rise and Putin was seizing opportunities.

The plenty small failures in foreign affairs will not prevent him from being a liberal icon, years or generations hence. If JFK’s blundering imperilment of world peace was buried under hagiography, there will be a similar forgetting spread over Obama’s foreign policy setbacks. As the first black president, the politician who passed health care reform and the man who personally embodied upper-class liberalism’s cosmopolitan self-image, he will almost certainly regain, in what is sure to be an active post-presidency, some of the cult that surrounded him during his ascent.

But it is precisely this once-and-future cult that’s crucial to understanding Obama’s greatest failure, and the part he played in delivering America to Trumpism. Sometimes unintentionally but too often by political design, he took the presidency’s already overlarge role in American life and magnified it further — raising, through his own transformational-bordering-on-messianic political style and reluctant-but-substantial embrace of the imperial presidency, both perfervid fears and unsupportable expectations.

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