Obama will be tough act to fol­low

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Su­san Estrich Su­san Estrich is syn­di­cated by Cre­ators Syn­di­cate.

Watch­ing The Don­ald in ac­tion, you can’t help but com­pare him to the man who has held the job he is seek­ing for the last eight years. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama shares al­most noth­ing in com­mon with Trump, which is why his­tory may treat him more fa­vor­ably than opin­ion polls do right now.

Sure, both the pres­i­dent and Trump are bril­liant and charis­matic lead­ers. But Trump be­lieves in tear­ing peo­ple apart, pit­ting peo­ple against each other, in racist and sex­ist at­tacks that will work with the mi­nor­ity of a mi­nor­ity who vote in Repub­li­can pri­maries and cau­cuses but in no way re­flect the mod­ern de­mo­graph­ics of 21st cen­tury Amer­ica. Sorry, Don­ald, but we are no longer a na­tion where white men con­trol ev­ery­thing.

Obama, at ev­ery turn, tried to unite this coun­try, to move be­yond iden­tity pol­i­tics. His speeches on race will be seen by his­to­ri­ans as noth­ing short of bril­liant, even if they did not erase racial di­vides. Some­times I think of how much worse things might be without this stun­ningly smart and thought­ful yet hum­ble man in the White House.

He came into of­fice fac­ing the worst eco­nomic cri­sis since the Great De­pres­sion. And in that con­text, he ran a cam­paign of hope. “Yes, we can.” I play the Will.i.am ad from the 2008 cam­paign and I re­mem­ber how, in the face of what seemed a hope­less sit­u­a­tion, Obama called on us to unite, to work to­gether, to be­lieve in the fu­ture. For a mo­ment, ev­ery­thing did seem pos­si­ble.

And what did he ac­com­plish? A lot. In the face of racism and cyn­i­cism and ugly di­vi­sive­ness, not to men­tion con­stant crit­i­cism from the far right, Obama did what no pres­i­dent be­fore him, try as they might, could do. He got com­pre­hen­sive health in­surance re­form through Congress. I re­mem­ber writ­ing speeches about it for Ted Kennedy. I re­mem­ber putting it in the plat­form through­out the 1980s. But to get it passed. I never thought I would see the day.

Is it per­fect? No. Do we need more ca­pac­ity? Ab­so­lutely. As new peo­ple come into the sys­tem, is it too crowded? Sure. But ask the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who can now go to a doc­tor proac­tively in­stead of wait­ing for an out-of-con­trol emer­gency to force them to; the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who couldn’t buy in­surance be­cause of pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions; and the mil­len­ni­als who can’t find jobs with ben­e­fits. Not one of them will tell you to re­peal it. For the first time ever, the num­ber of Amer­i­cans who don’t have health in­surance has dropped to 10 per­cent. His­tory will rec­og­nize the great­ness of this ac­com­plish­ment, even if all we hear now is the crit­i­cism.

He led us out of the re­ces­sion, adding some­thing on the or­der of 14 mil­lion jobs and re­duc­ing unem­ploy­ment, as of Oc­to­ber, to 5 per­cent. He re­formed Wall Street, which ev­ery­one al­ways prom­ises to do and no one does. He man­aged to re­form the much-crit­i­cized No Child Left Be­hind Act. He took on cli­mate change, and the world just signed an im­por­tant new agree­ment that was only pos­si­ble be­cause of Amer­ica’s lead­er­ship and di­plo­macy. We fi­nally re­opened our em­bassy in Cuba; pol­i­tics in Florida had changed years ago, but no one was quite ready to take the risk. Obama did.

Un­der his ad­min­is­tra­tion, gay peo­ple in Amer­ica are fi­nally achiev­ing the equal­ity they de­serve, in­clud­ing the right to marry and re­ceive spousal ben­e­fits just as straight peo­ple do. In the face of re­peated at­tacks, he has stood firm for Planned Par­ent­hood and a woman’s right to choose, stood firm for a woman’s right to fair and eq­ui­table pay.

I am a huge fan of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s, and I have dreamed of her pres­i­dency since I wrote a book about it, “The Case for Hil­lary Clin­ton,” in 2006. How­ever nasty the next two weeks are, I think it will be an amaz­ing mo­ment for women and girls around the world to watch a woman take her place as the best can­di­date for the big­gest job in the world. And she is. But she will be fill­ing very big shoes.

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