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Obama evaluation panel sought to educate students on electoral issues

This article was written as a collaboration by Marion Halftermeyer, Copy Editor, and Jing Xu, Gavel Media Staff. 

Political science professors evaluated critical political issues that occurred during Barack Obama’s four years of presidency in order toeducate students in light of the upcoming presidential election, during a panel hosted by the Americans for Informed Democracy on Tuesday, Oct.2.

“This administration has esteemed its reputation, in the long run, will live and die on health care,” Marc Landy, a professor in the political science department, said. Landy described the health care initiative as the most signature achievement of the Obama administration and in social policy since 1965. Passing a health care policy took enormous political strength during a time when the country was in a serious economic crisis, Landy said.

“I think it has to do with his self-understanding, who he is, and how he views himself,” Landy said.

Alan Wolfe, a professor in the political science department, said that Obama’s health care initiative had a funny feature built into it—it would accomplish a significant social objective providing insurance to people who didn’t have it and yet would reduce the deficit through an increase in taxes on the rich. Wolfe also said another priority was to have an administrative rationalization of expenses and to cut the enormous and useless military budget.

“Somewhere between a trillion and 740 billion in dollars has to come out of Medicare to pay for this—that means reduced payments to physicians,” Landy said in disagreement with Wolfe over how the new health care policy will be paid for. “It will not happen. It will not happen. So it will be paid for either out of tax increases or reduced services.”

David Deese, a professor in the political science department, said his biggest critique of Obama washis economic policy: He failed to integrate foreign economic policy with domestic policies, the way Bill Clinton did, because he was focused on the domestic economic crisis.

“He’s done a pretty good job of winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq given the situation he was handed, given the limitations on the U.S., given the fact that this was a president that opposed war in the first place,” Deese said. “He is doing a reasonable job.”

Obama’s foreign policy was in direct opposition to George W. Bush’s, according to Landy, in the sense that Obama tried to turn enemies into friends. Obama decided to go to Cairo instead of Israel and Warsaw. “Of the few genuine friends that the U.S. has in the world, the only places he has been are Britain and Canada. This is a symbolic decision,” Landy said. It is a loss because Obama has not made an effort to keep an ongoing friendship with countries such as Israel and Poland that are considered friends, according to Landy.

Wolfe said that even though Israel is an ally, and the U.S. should support its allies, there should be a space between the U.S. and Israel. In terms of agreements, if Israel demands something of the U.S., the U.S. should not just give it to them without any questions asked. “Israel can also be a serious pain in the neck,” he said.

Obama’s appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was the single greatest accomplishment, in the realm of foreign policy, by the administration, according to Wolfe. She has been tireless, cautious and yet firm. “She will go down in history as one of the greatest secretaries of state we’ve had,” he said. Clinton re-established the state of peace and credibility.

Deese said that key appointments in the Obama administration were influenced by the depth and the degree of the economic recession. “I would give him credit for working our way out of the economic recession, near depression, that we were in,” he said.

Political scientists predicted that because of the recession this election would be an automatic Republican victory, Wolfe said. They were wrong. “The recovery has actually been uneven and bigger in some states than in others,” he said, “you can’t just talk about the national economy.”

Wolfe said, “Romney said ‘Elect me, and the recovery will happen by itself’.” The recovery is happening, Wolfe added, and will continue to almost irrespective of who is president.

If Mitt Romney is elected, Landy said that Obama’s health care policy would be repealed. Wolfe said in disagreement, “I don’t think they can repeal the health care act.” The idea is that insurance companies will not let that happen because of the mandates, Wolfe said.

“The big mystery is who is the real Romney?” Wolfe added in the discussion about Romney’s position on policies. “I’m not even sure Mitt Romney knows the answer to that.”

Landy said today’s politics are very bi-partisan. “The Democrats have come to resemble a certain kind of Western European social democratic party, which is totally respectable. They didn’t used to be that. Just as the Republicans have now become this conservative party. We have enormous political change going on,” Landy said. Both parties have approached the campaign in a way that presents them as polar opposites.

“There is so much partisan rhetoric around the election season. It’s really hard to find objective good information before you vote,” John Makransky, A&S’14 and city coordinator for AID, said. “We wanted to look at the four years of the Obama presidency in a non-partisan manner and look at the main policy issues.”

The AID took it upon itself to host this event because it is non-partisan. Groups like the College Democrats or the College Republicans are partisan and therefore have an agenda to promote. “The Dems would probably highlight Obama’s best attributes and the Republicans would probably say everything that he did wrong,” Diane Bernabei, A&S’14 and AID secretary, said.

“Our only agenda is to inform the audience—to inform the BC students—on what is actually happening,” Bernabei said. “We want to give an as well-rounded supply of information as possible.” The hope is that students will absorb a collection of political opinions to make an informed decision when it comes time to vote, according to Bernabei.

The focus of the event was centered on Obama because Romney is still a candidate, Makransky said. “It’s hard to evaluate his effectiveness,” he said.

“Evaluating a solid presidency that has already occurred is very easy because it is somewhat historical. It’s like taking a piece of history and being like: ‘This happened for this reason, was it good or bad, what is the resolution?’” Bernabei added.

AID’s mission is to promote political awareness on campus, according to Bernabei. “Part of our mission is to break through the BC bubble, to let people on campus know what is going on around the campus politically and internationally,” Makransky said. Bernabei added that many students come to BC with their political opinions already formed and do not use their four years in college to mold or change it.

“We try to present any given side of an argument,” Bernabei said.

Photos by Kara Weeks/Gavel Media

Marion is a senior and double major in Communication and Economics. She's had a goal in pursuing journalism since high school and has been involved ever since.

In the past, she interned for The New England Center for Investigative Reporting and worked with Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Rochelle Sharpe on a story published in the Washington Post. She also interned for the West Roxbury-Roslindale Transcript, a local newspaper headed by GateHouse Media New England.

Originally from France, Marion has lived in a total of 6 countries, and now calls Boston her temporary home. She enjoys traveling and so has been able to see a good portion of Europe and Africa, as well as most of North America and Central America. In the future, Marion hopes she'll be traveling the world while writing for National Geographic.