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January 03, 2012 3:55 PM It depends on the meaning of ‘nothing’

By Steve Benen

Jennifer Rubin today reflects on President Obama’s re-election strategy, and argues he’ll struggle to point to meaningful accomplishments, especially from his first two years in office.

Recall that Obama had two years with majority control of the both houses of Congress. Aside from jamming through ObamaCare, which has, among other things, ended the career of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), he accomplished nothing other than hiking the debt. It’s hard to run against your own party in Congress.

Looking back at 2009 and 2010, Rubin raises an interesting point. Obama “accomplished nothing,” she says, other than “jamming through” — which is apparently synonymous with “passing with large majorities in both chambers, following a year-long fight” — the Affordable Care Act.

Well, he also passed the Recovery Act, which prevented a depression and created 3 million jobs.

And there was also the Wall Street reform package, passed with bipartisan support, which featured the most sweeping overhaul of financial industry regulations since FDR.

Come to think of it, we also saw a rescue of the American auto industry, DADT repeal, a breakthrough student-loan-reform bill, ratification of New START, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the biggest overhaul of our food-safety laws in 70 years, new regulation of the credit card industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, net neutrality, the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, and health care for 9/11 first responders.

Jonathan Cohn has more along these lines, documenting other Obama accomplishments on education, environmental, and tax policy.

It’s curious that Rubin doesn’t remember any of this. Most historians, experts, and journalists look back at 2009 and 2010 as a period of expansive policymaking, when President Obama racked up an extraordinary number of accomplishments. “He accomplished nothing” except health care and debt? I’m afraid 2010 really wasn’t that long ago; even conservatives with short memories should be able to recall some of the more noticeable highlights.

If Rubin wants to condemn these accomplishments, that’d certainly make sense — most of Obama’s breakthroughs are longstanding progressive goals, and I wouldn’t expect conservatives to approve of them on substantive or policy grounds.

But why pretend these accomplishments don’t exist? Wouldn’t it be better to have an honest discussion about the Obama agenda on the merits?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • Peter on January 03, 2012 4:00 PM:

    Wouldn't it be better to have an honest discussion about the Obama agenda on the merits?

    For whom?

  • Peter C on January 03, 2012 4:00 PM:

    Ending the career of Ben Nelson counts as a big plus for me, and I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.

  • martin on January 03, 2012 4:00 PM:

    ObamaCare, which has, among other things, ended the career of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.),

    What more could you want?

  • Michael on January 03, 2012 4:01 PM:

    That isn't the st rategy, the s trategy is to let them think, as told by conservatives, who they depend on for the REAL information, that nothing is going on behind that curtain...

  • Patricia Ramey on January 03, 2012 4:01 PM:

    So glad we have you to report on these conservative columnists... I don't have the stomach for it myself.

  • T2 on January 03, 2012 4:02 PM:

    from where I sit, ending the career of Ben Nelson is a huge accomplishment.

  • TT on January 03, 2012 4:07 PM:

    Obama has thus far refused to turn over decision-making powers for U.S. foreign policy to Benjamin Netanyahu. So, yeah, in Rubin's book that means he's accomplished nothing.

  • RP on January 03, 2012 4:13 PM:

    Ending the 8 year debacle that was Iraq, killing Bin laden, and the stock market up by nearly 100% since he took office are a few other things that come to mind...

  • Gummo on January 03, 2012 4:13 PM:

    Be prepared to be inundated with variations on this meme -- Obama Accomplished Nothing.

    The Republicans, abetted by their corporate media lackeys, will blanket the media with this meme. Most Americans, for whom Obama's accomplishments are still pretty damned abstract, will nod their heads in agreement.

    And Obama and his team, still too "above the fray" to champion their own accomplishments, will sit on their hands, except for occasionally wondering aloud why no one appreciates them.

  • nerd on January 03, 2012 4:16 PM:

    The title of the blog is "Right-Turn". Does anything more really need to be said?

  • T-Rex on January 03, 2012 4:17 PM:

    Well, you have to say that he's done nothing if you want to sell the stereotype of Obama as a hopeless bungler and no-count, lazy, shif'less n-word. Of course, when you switch to the "tyrannical radical hell-bent on converting the U.S. to a Stalinist dictatorship," you have to claim that he's accomplished extraordinary strides toward this goal. But you can always count on the believers to accept both accusations and never even notice the cognitive dissonance.

  • Marko on January 03, 2012 4:19 PM:

    Someone please remind me, what the hell did Bush ever do?

  • jjm on January 03, 2012 4:19 PM:

    I'm sorry, but far too many so called progressives claim the same thing about Obama. "He's a disappointment" "He's wasted two years" blah blah blah. A few months ago I posted a reply to someone on this blog that simply listed all the things Obama SIGNED INTO LAW in his first two years, and the person criticizing Obama claimed to have been set back on his or her heels, and thanking me for reminding everyone of how much he did and how progressive the legislation was, despite GOP obstruction, filibusters, et al.

    Maybe the list should be posted everywhere there isn't a word limit. (I tried it at TPM but it was waaaay too long.)

  • chi res on January 03, 2012 4:21 PM:

    Obama and his team, still too "above the fray" to champion their own accomplishments, will sit on their hands, except for occasionally wondering aloud why no one appreciates them.

    Yeah, because, really, that's all they've done since 2007...sit on their hands.

    Hey, you must be one of those "corporate media lackeys"!

    Can I have your autograph?

  • Quaker in a Basement on January 03, 2012 4:22 PM:

    Wouldn’t it be better to have an honest discussion about the Obama agenda on the merits?

    Not if you're Jennifer Rubin.

  • Fed Up In Brooklyn on January 03, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Can we stop pretending the Wall Street reform package was anything more than a band-aid on a gigantic bullet wound? Please? Thanks.

    We'll never get real reform if we keep pretending B.S. reform is actually real.

  • Gummo on January 03, 2012 4:31 PM:

    chi res, you can attack me all you want if that helps you feel good, but that won't change the fact that the Obama team's messaging stinks.

  • Archon on January 03, 2012 4:31 PM:


    It's tough call for Republicans on how they are going to attack Obama that doesn't make them look crazy or disingenious.

    If I were advising Republicans my pitch would be something like, "Obama's a good guy and his hearts in the right place but he said he would improve the economy and change politics in Washington and he's failed miserably at both. Now all of this isn't his fault but it is what it is, and in these times we can't afford to give second chances".

    Anything that points to Obama as nafarious, or clueless is going to blow up in the Republicans face

  • kindness on January 03, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Because Rubin is a moron who seems to lust after a Fox News gig.

    Jennifer...you aren't young enough, cute enough or blond enough to make the cut at Fox. Get over your self.

  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2012 4:33 PM:

    Funny, that - a woman who's NEVER written a good column, criticizing Obama.

    A person in a glass house...

    No, maybe she WAS stoned!

  • g on January 03, 2012 4:36 PM:

    Wasn't there something about a bearded fellow he took out?

  • Hedda Peraz on January 03, 2012 4:39 PM:

    OBAMA LIES!
    Can I be on the TeeVee?

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on January 03, 2012 4:48 PM:

    Anybody care to imagine how Texas high school history books will remember the Obama presidency...?

  • jdog on January 03, 2012 4:55 PM:

    Rubin is worth ignoring, except for researching arguments making the rounds in conservative circles. She is not fact-based; she ignores the inconvenient; she is part of the "alternate universe" that is incomprehensible to those not indoctrinated by the "world according to Fox."

    Take away her platform in the Post, and no one would pay any attention to her.

    I don't.

  • Gandalf on January 03, 2012 5:01 PM:

    Gummo you mean you didn't get a unicorn and a pot of gold for Christmas therefor Obama and crew are at fault.

  • Anonymous on January 03, 2012 5:04 PM:

    "Someone please remind me, what the hell did Bush ever do?" - Me

    Oh, wait - I get it: they're trying to project Bush onto Obama. You know, the ol' Rovian trick of turning your opponent's strength into a weakness. hahahahahhahahaha very interesting. But it's not going to work this time, Karl. Crawl back into your slime hole.

  • Marko on January 03, 2012 5:05 PM:

    Anonymous above = Me

  • chi res on January 03, 2012 5:17 PM:

    @Gummo

    Attack? Just following the logic of your post.

    You wrote: Obama Accomplished Nothing. The Republicans, abetted by their corporate media lackeys, will blanket the media with this meme.

    Then you wrote: Obama and his team...will sit on their hands, except for occasionally wondering aloud why no one appreciates them.

    Since you were, yourself, repeating the exact meme that you had just said the republicans would use, I obviously assumed that you were one of the "corporate media lackeys".

    I'm sorry. Was I wrong? Are you actually a republican?

  • Kathryn on January 03, 2012 5:27 PM:

    T T raises a good point about Pres. Obama not ceding our foreign affairs policy over to Netenyahu, which Romney promises to do. I know all the pundits, who can't see the forrest for the trees, pronounce that the election will be about the economy and then talk of nothing else to prove themselves right. However, if I were involved in strategy for Pres. Obama I'd emphasize the foreign policy differences also, with the warmongering towards Iran and ass kissing towards Israel, GOP. Even conservatives are sick of all our money going to wars and most Americans aren't interested in selling our future for Israel. Look at the support for Ron Paul in the Republican Party. Two of my husbands conservative golfing buddies said they'd vote for Obama if he got us out of Afghanistan. I don't necessarily believe them, but still don't think they 'll be too thrilled with the saber rattling over Iran. There's a stark difference between Obama and those fools and I think most Americans are with Obama. He should brag about bin Laden, Aulaki, Libya, keeping us safe, etc. while all the while calming the waters without threatening unilateral action and screaming about how exceptional we are.

  • Kathryn on January 03, 2012 5:28 PM:

    T T raises a good point about Pres. Obama not ceding our foreign affairs policy over to Netenyahu, which Romney promises to do. I know all the pundits, who can't see the forrest for the trees, pronounce that the election will be about the economy and then talk of nothing else to prove themselves right. However, if I were involved in strategy for Pres. Obama I'd emphasize the foreign policy differences also, with the warmongering towards Iran and ass kissing towards Israel, GOP. Even conservatives are sick of all our money going to wars and most Americans aren't interested in selling our future for Israel. Look at the support for Ron Paul in the Republican Party. Two of my husbands conservative golfing buddies said they'd vote for Obama if he got us out of Afghanistan. I don't necessarily believe them, but still don't think they 'll be too thrilled with the saber rattling over Iran. There's a stark difference between Obama and those fools and I think most Americans are with Obama. He should brag about bin Laden, Aulaki, Libya, keeping us safe, etc. while all the while calming the waters without threatening unilateral action and screaming about how exceptional we are.

  • Anonymous on January 03, 2012 5:29 PM:

    Jennifer Rubin has
    for years
    been writing the
    same exact words
    a horse's ass would!

    Jennifer Rubin writes
    as if
    she needs therapy
    or maybe something else
    for her brain damage!

    Jennifer Rubin is
    diseased from
    her ignominious
    and maleficent
    social intercourse!

    Damn what a bitch! -Kevo

  • Socko80 on January 03, 2012 5:30 PM:

    @Gummo

    Yeah, because the republican’s message of, “Leave the rich kids aloooone!” is such a winner! All the republican candidates ever do is bash Barack Obama, but they never actually tell people what they would do to make things better. And, none of the republican clowns has a good record to run on, PERIOD! Their candidates aren't good enough to shine Barack Obama's shoes, that's why they have to lie about their own terrible records, and Barack Obama's record.

    Barack Obama’s message doesn’t stink. You stink!

    @Fed Up In Brooklyn (B.S. liberal)

    Can you libertarians stop pretending to be liberals?

    Your kind of whining is the problem. The “Left” and the Right are repeating the same exact lie: “Barack Obama hasn’t accomplished anything!” All you’re doing is playing into the republicans hands. The Wall Street Reform plan isn’t perfect, but at least it's something. It’s still an accomplishment. Even Elizabeth Warren gave her approval. Or, is she a “sellout” now, too?

    If you think some perfect, progressive messiah, is going to come in and primary Barack Obama, keep dreaming. Now, be a good “liberal” and vote for the republican nominee, or some right-wing third party candidate. And, I'm already ten steps ahead of you: Or, you can sit out the election! Fine! I’m FED UP with incessant whiners like you!


  • SYSPROG on January 03, 2012 5:52 PM:

    Jennifer Rubin is a lying bitch. OK? Always has been, always will be. Now. Obama has had so much to FIX that the bubbleheads didn't even realize had been taken away that they believe he has done nothing. Yes, the messaging could be better but every time it is tried by the WH, the GOP AND the media jump on it and say the President is 'bragging' 'beating his chest'. It is up to US to keep repeating it over and over. I keep a list in my inbox so every time I get a racist, bigoted, nasty, stupid email from a REPUBLICAN or a whiny Dem I just email it to them with the subject line READ IT YOU MORON! Steve has published a new one today.

  • Bruce K on January 03, 2012 5:52 PM:

    hahaha...how can Obama have accomplished almost nothing and simultaneously have destroyed the American way of life??

    oww, the stupid, it hurts...

  • Dark States on January 03, 2012 5:53 PM:

    Don't forget, when she says "two years", she really means "seven months".

    Al Franken sworn in July 7, 2009
    Scott Brown sworn in February 4, 2010.

  • PQuincy on January 03, 2012 5:58 PM:

    T-Rex nailed it:

    President Obama and the Democrats, despite large majorities, accomplished nothing in the President's first term. And the rapidly expanding socialist state control that is the result of this is a fundamental threat to the Mercun Way of Life!

  • Another Steve on January 03, 2012 6:04 PM:

    Steve, I love that thing you do when you pretend to think Republicans say the things they say because they are merely confused and not very bright rather than being pathologically lying sociopaths who think everyone else is not very bright.

  • DK on January 03, 2012 6:06 PM:

    Wait, I thought it was Obama's overreaching socialist policies that were destroying this country. At least that's was Faux News told me. Now you're telling me he hasn't done anything?

    Which is it?

  • booch221 on January 03, 2012 6:08 PM:

    Back when health care reform was stalled the GOP party line was "the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House and they can't get this passed."

    So when they did get it passed the line changed to "the rammed it through on a party line vote".

    Well, when one party votes in lock step to obstruct something the only way to pass it is on a party line vote.

    Then they accuse Obama of being of breaking his promise to be bipartisan.

    See how this works?

  • booch221 on January 03, 2012 6:13 PM:

    Democrats weren't going to vote for Nelson anyway.

    The only vote he could win is worst hairdo in the Senate.

  • Joe Friday on January 03, 2012 7:14 PM:

    "Jennifer Rubin today reflects on President Obama's re-election strategy, and argues he'll struggle to point to meaningful accomplishments"

    The black man in the White House has yet to dance for her yet.

  • Rick on January 03, 2012 8:49 PM:

    This has a familiar ring to it... What did the Romans ever to for us? the aqueduct... and the sanitation... and the roads... irrigation... medicine... education... health... and the wine... public baths... and it's safe to walk in the streets at night now.

    All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order... what have the Romans done for us?

  • DisgustedWithItAll on January 03, 2012 10:10 PM:

    I've read more than I'm comfortable admitting of Rubin. Most of the time, I was drawn to it like a car wreck to see if she could top the stupidity of her last work. That harried heifer is just flat stupid. Seriously. Just flat stupid.

  • Coop on January 03, 2012 11:04 PM:

    When was the last time Republicans took part in an honest discussion?

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