It depends on the meaning of ‘nothing’

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?