Outgoing US President Barack Obama, who delivered his farewell address on Tuesday, leaves office with opinion polls giving him a favorability rating among voters of between 55 and 57 percent.
This figure is much higher than his predecessor, George W. Bush, who had an approval rating of just 36 percent when he left office amid the Great Recession. It is also higher than the 48 percent approval rating for incoming President Donald Trump.
Although Obama leaves the country in better shape than his predecessor, his legacy is a mixed one, told Ivan Eland, senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the California-based Independent Institute.
Obama’s most memorable achievements are healthcare reform in the US, and the killing of Osama bin Laden. His role in the slow economic recovery which followed the global financial crisis remains a matter of debate between the President’s supporters and opponents.
“That will be criticized by both sides. The Democrats will say, ‘well, he brought us out of a very tough situation’, and the Republicans will say, ‘our growth is too slow and we need to pick it up’.”
Obama has a “mixed legacy on foreign policy,” and has been criticized by some for weakness and by others for too much intervention, Eland said.
“I have to say that he improved relations with Cuba and Iran, I think they should go even farther than he did but he certainly opened the door for that. I think his foreign policy has been better than his domestic policy, although he’s had setbacks in foreign policy as well.”
“He’s running seven wars now, five of them are drone wars, or air wars, and that’s much too many. I would say he’s less active in some respects than his predecessor, who launched a full-scale invasion of Iraq for no reason,” Eland said.
Another foreign policy positive for Obama is that he “restrained himself in Syria,” but there were also many negatives.
“On the negative side, I think he got back into Iraq, he hasn’t gotten out of Afghanistan, those are lost causes. He tried to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi and was actually successful in doing so. He has a mixed legacy in foreign policy,” Eland said.
“I think Obama is still too interventionist but that’s a sort of bipartisan consensus in US policy which I think is eroding under the current President-elect, I think (he’ll be) less interventionist but we’ll have to wait and see what the record is, sometimes the record is different from the rhetoric during the election.”
Obama has a relatively good record on job creation, and according to official figures the rate of unemployment in the US is currently 4.7 percent. However, the national debt has increased to $20 trillion under Obama and it remains too much of a burden on the economy, Eland said.
“The Republicans usually open the budget deficit and the Democrats try and close it up. (Bill) Clinton successfully closed it up with a surplus, with Barack Obama the deficit (he inherited) was much bigger than Clinton faced but he did get it down. But of course, he spent a lot of money himself and the debt increased during that time.”