The presidency of Barack Obama
Learn about the domestic and foreign policies of Barack Obama, president of the United States from 2008 to 2016.
- Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States and the first African American president in US history. He was elected in 2008 and served two terms.
- Obama came into office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and authorized a massive economic stimulus package that mitigated the worst effects of the crisis but substantially increased the federal debt and the federal budget deficit.
- Though Obama’s presidential campaign was highly critical of the George W. Bush administration’s conduct in the War on Terror, once in office he pursued a similar approach to global terrorism.
- Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as “Obamacare.”
The ascendance of Barack Obama
Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of a white American mother from Kansas and a black African father from Kenya. He worked as a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree at Harvard. He served three terms in the Illinois Senate before being elected to the US Senate as the junior senator from Illinois. He went on to win the Democratic Party presidential primary against challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008.
Photograph of Barack Obama standing in front of the American flag and smiling.
Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign prominently featured the themes of hope and change, and he contrasted himself with President George W. Bush on a number of issues, particularly the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the use of foreign detention centers to interrogate suspected terrorists. Obama garnered the support of a broad coalition of Democrats and independents, especially college students, single women, and African Americans, and he triumphed over Republican rival John McCain by a healthy margin. On November 4, 2008, Obama made history by becoming the first African American ever to be elected president of the United States. He was reelected in 2012.
President Obama’s domestic policies
President Obama came into office during the Great Recession and his administration immediately enacted relief measures to mitigate the negative effects of the economic crisis. He signed legislation aimed at stimulating the economy by extending unemployment benefits and tax cuts, and authorizing federal spending on education, green energy, and infrastructure in an attempt to create jobs and to provide temporary relief programs. Though these measures helped stave off economic catastrophe, they also significantly raised the federal debt and the federal budget deficit.
President Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as “Obamacare." The law mandated health insurance coverage for US citizens and made it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions. It provided federal subsidies to insure lower-income Americans, and extended coverage to millions. However, there were some negative unintended consequences of Obamacare. Many previously-insured Americans saw their premiums skyrocket, while others lost coverage completely. Still others had to purchase plans that did not cover their prior healthcare providers.
Other domestic achievements of the Obama administration include the extension of civil rights to the LGBTQ community. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 made it legal for openly homosexual men and women to serve in the US armed forces, while the Obama administration filed briefs with the US Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and legalize same-sex marriage.
President Obama’s foreign policy
Although Obama’s presidential campaign had been sharply critical of George W. Bush’s approach to the Global War on Terror, once he came into office, Obama continued many of the anti-terrorism policies adopted by Bush after September 11th. Drone strikes targeting suspected terrorists in countries like Pakistan and Yemen, with which the United States was not officially at war, continued and even escalated. Moreover, due to domestic opposition, Obama was unable to fulfill his campaign pledge to close the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
President Obama withdrew US forces from Iraq and announced in August 2010 that the US combat mission there had officially ended. After the US withdrawal, the insurgency intensified and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) captured major cities in Iraq, including Mosul and Tikrit. Although Obama had also hoped to end US involvement in the war in Afghanistan, the deteriorating security situation ultimately convinced him to indefinitely prolong the US combat mission there.
On May 2, 2011, the Obama administration enjoyed a major success in the War on Terror when US Navy Seals captured and killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Other notable foreign policy achievements of the Obama administration were the renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba after half a century of estrangement, and the negotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
What do you think?
What were President Obama’s greatest achievements in office? What were his biggest shortcomings?
How would you characterize President Obama’s foreign policy? How does it compare to the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration?
What were the pros and cons of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?
Want to join the conversation?
- What was Pakistan’s response to the assassination of the terrorist Osama bin Laden?(7 votes)
- Actually it was Pakistan who reported the presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But, there is a conspiracy theory that Osama died long before 2011. Aboottabad Story was concocted by CIA and ISI as a face saving and to convey the message that they are not wasting their tax payers' money just in bombing mountains.(7 votes)
- Why is Obamacare still called Obamacare if President Obama is no longer in office?(2 votes)
- It isn't an official name. It is just the name that has been applied to the Affordable Care Act in popular culture.(13 votes)
- Why is it that most presidents that go into office come out with a bigger federal deficit than before? :/(3 votes)
- The most clear reason is inflation, which the Federal Reserve likes to hold around 2.5%. Although admittedly, that does not account for all of it.
The real reason for this is that there is space to borrow. It's alot like having a credit card that your entire school is in charge of. Because there is so much space to spend, and less individual responsibility to handle the money well, it is much easier to give in to your impulse to spend. Same with the government, where every leader wants to look good for spending on whatever (infrastructure, social programs, grants to states, etc.), but doesn't want to increase taxes. We can just borrow the money, and it will be just fine! This thinking is likely to lead us to a bad place, regardless of the party in power.(10 votes)
- What I don't get is, how could a president get out of debt? Especially with all of the federal programs, war stuff, and such?(1 vote)
- A president does not get the nation out of debt. The debt has "been there" all along, and it grows when the government borrows money to fund programs that cannot be covered by income from taxes and fees.
Presidents can set up the economy to reduce borrowing and increase income by promoting the kinds of economic activities that yield more taxes (government income) which can be applied to paying down the debt. OR presidents can promote ideas that yield more government income by increasing taxes, which pay down the debt.
When policies like decreasing taxes are applied, there is less money for paying down debt or funding things that are legally required for the government to provide, so debt goes up.
I remember it being suggested to me by someone long ago (and do not trust this, because my memory often twists things) that if the government should find some way to pay off all it's debt, that would put so much money into the economy that inflation would go through the roof. Check that idea with a real economist, though. I could be absolutely wrong.(4 votes)
- Asking for everyone's opinion, was Obama a good president overall?(2 votes)
- i know Barack Obama is the 44th president,but why is there no time in america where there is no president every 4 years there is a election on November 1st and that´s the president´s last day because on November 1st they Vote for the next one so why can there be no time where there is No President?(0 votes)
- In fact, November 1st does not actually mark the current president's last day in office. Even though his/her successor is elected on that day, the current president keeps their position until January 20th, which is known as Inauguration Day. On this day, the new president is sworn into office and the old one leaves. This leaves no space in which there is no president. I hope this answers your question.(12 votes)
- How did the Obamacare cause those “negative effects” mentioned in the article to happen(1 vote)
- "Many previously-insured Americans saw their premiums skyrocket, while others lost coverage completely. Still others had to purchase plans that did not cover their prior healthcare providers."
The primary drawbacks of the ACA are due to the nature of insurance companies. Many pulled out of certain counties because of increased costs and coverage requirements, leaving one or two companies to extort the rest of the population. It hurts competition.
I don't agree with fully private healthCARE, but ObamaCARE was really ObamaINSURANCEREQUIREMENTS. Some of the clauses are noble, but they were rammed in a bill that should've been to publicly subsidize preventative healthcare, not use price controls and the like to make it harder and more expensive for people to get access to private insurance that would then pay for healthcare.(3 votes)
- Did the Obama administrations popularity with minorities especially among the LGBTQ community help boost the democratic parties popularity in the elections after that?(2 votes)
- Kind of. While his popularity didn't change things in 2016, he set the Democratic Party on a track to the fanatic minority-loving wokeness that it is controlled by today.(1 vote)
- What's one domestic policy Barack Obama achieved that is still in place today?(1 vote)
- Obama signed many landmark bills into law during his first two years in office. The main reforms include: the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as "the ACA" or "Obamacare", the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.(2 votes)
- Obama tripled the national debt, divided the country by using his status to destroy race relations, got us involved in 7 different wars, signed a nuclear deal that within a decade would be a death warrant for Israel, reestablished diplomatic relations with a communist dictatorship with no benefits for America, and instituted a drone program that killed 90% civilians. Not exactly the best president.(0 votes)
- Civilian Casualties from US drone strikes, each of which is a tragedy, were nowhere near 90%. " independent estimates from the non-governmental organizations New America and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggest that civilians made up between 7.27% to 15.47% of deaths in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia from 2009–2016, with a broadly similar rate from 2017–2019. Civilian casualties as a percentage of overall deaths were highest in Yemen and lowest in Somalia."(2 votes)