Kristof takes stock

The New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof argues today that President Obama “has done better than many critics on the left or the right give him credit for.”

He took office in the worst recession in more than half a century, amid fears of a complete economic implosion…. The administration helped tug us back from the brink of economic ruin. Obama oversaw an economic stimulus that, while too small, was far larger than the one House Democrats had proposed. He rescued the auto industry and achieved health care reform that presidents have been seeking since the time of Theodore Roosevelt.

Despite virulent opposition that has paralyzed the government, Obama bolstered regulation of the tobacco industry, signed a fair pay act and tightened control of the credit card industry. He has been superb on education, weaning the Democratic Party from blind support for teachers’ unions while still trying to strengthen public schools.

In foreign policy, Obama has taken a couple of huge risks. He approved the assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and despite much criticism he led the international effort to overthrow Muammar el-Qaddafi. So far, both bets are paying off.

That’s a reasonably good summary of the last three years. I’d include some additional accomplishments to the president’s list — Wall Street reform, DADT repeal, ending the war in Iraq, the woefully under-appreciated student loan reform, New START, etc. — but the column’s summary includes several highlights.

Kristof’s larger point, though, was to offer a suggestion to voters.

[T]hink back to 2000. Many Democrats and journalists alike, feeling grouchy, were dismissive of Al Gore and magnified his shortcomings. We forgot the context, prided ourselves on our disdainful superiority — and won eight years of George W. Bush.

This time, let’s do a better job of retaining perspective. If we turn Obama out of office a year from now, let’s make sure it is because the Republican nominee is preferable, not just out of grumpiness toward the incumbent during a difficult time.

That sounds about right.