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Andrew Sullivan Believes Obama Even Deserves Credit for Things Obama Opposes

Andrew Sullivan attempts to mount a defense of President Obama’s record from the standpoint of achieving liberal objectives.   But on some key items, he gets the President’s record and positions wrong, even backwards.

Sullivan starts by declaring that Obama’s critics from both the left and right are unhinged from reality.  He then goes on to give Obama credit for things he had nothing to do with or even things that happened in spite of Obama’s opposition. From Sullivan:

They miss, it seems to me, two vital things. The first is the simple scale of what has been accomplished on issues liberals say they care about. A depression was averted. The bail-out of the auto industry was—amazingly—successful. Even the bank bailouts have been repaid to a great extent by a recovering banking sector. The Iraq War—the issue that made Obama the nominee—has been ended on time and, vitally, with no troops left behind. Defense is being cut steadily, even as Obama has moved his own party away from a Pelosi-style reflexive defense of all federal entitlements. Under Obama, support for marriage equality and marijuana legalization has crested to record levels. Under Obama, a crucial state, New York, made marriage equality for gays an irreversible fact of American life. Gays now openly serve in the military, and the Defense of Marriage Act is dying in the courts, undefended by the Obama Justice Department. Vast government money has been poured into noncarbon energy investments, via the stimulus. Fuel-emission standards have been drastically increased. Torture was ended. Two moderately liberal women replaced men on the Supreme Court. Oh, yes, and the liberal holy grail that eluded Johnson and Carter and Clinton, nearly universal health care, has been set into law. Politifact recently noted that of 508 specific promises, a third had been fulfilled and only two have not had some action taken on them. To have done all this while simultaneously battling an economic hurricane makes Obama about as honest a follow-through artist as anyone can expect from a politician.

I apparently totally missed the moment when Obama convinced the American people to support gay marriage and marijuana legalization.

The record is that Obama has repeatedly stated he opposes marijuana legalization and marriage equality. Logically Obama deserves no more credit for these trends, which seem driven by demographic changes, than George W. Bush does. After all, support for both issues repeatedly hit new record highs under Bush.

Public support for both issues continued to hit new records under Obama, simply because polls found new record levels of support basically every year for the last decade. There is every reason to believe these long term trends would have continued regardless who was elected in 2008.

Obama has not helped these trends. If anything Obama has set back marijuana legalization. Experts in the drug reform field have determined Obama has been worse than Bush on the issue of medical marijuana.

Similarly, a president almost never deserves the credit or the blame for a law passed at the state level, unless the Administration was heavily involved in lobbying for its passage. Obama no more deserves credit for New York’s marriage equality law passed “under Obama” than Bush deserves credit for Rhodes Island adopting medical marijuana legalization “under Bush.”  I would also never blame Obama for Florida’s law requiring drug testing of welfare recipients, a law also passed “under Obama.”

Sullivan concludes by saying “If I sound biased, that’s because I am. Biased toward the actual record, not the spin.”  But in these instances, the spin is claiming Obama should get credit for things that are happening in spite of Obama.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at