RANCHO MIRAGE, California: As he approaches the end of his two terms in office, President Barack Obama has given an upbeat assessment of his performance.
“There is no doubt that we are better off than we were when I came into office,” said the President when asked if his presidency and his administration had made real change in the US.
Speaking on the sidelines of the US-ASEAN Summit in Sunnylands, California last Tuesday (Feb 16), the President recalled the challenges his administration faced at the outset, especially the financial crisis that was having a devastating impact on the world’s biggest economy.
“It is hard to dispute that we are much better off now than we were in 2008-2009 when I came into office. We were about to plunge into a worldwide depression,” said Mr Obama, who spent the start of his presidency fighting to pass a stimulus bill designed to jumpstart the economy and to provide a safety net for the unemployed.
“The truth is that we bounced out of this financial crisis faster more effectively than has happened in previous major financial crisis.”
Domestically, the President also pointed to the provision of healthcare to 18 million Americans with Obamacare.
A GLOBAL ASSESSMENT
But on international affairs, the President had a mixed assessment.
He lauded the COP-21 climate talks, and reserved praise for China President Xi Jinping.
“We would not have gotten the Paris climate agreement done unless President Xi and I had agreed to work together, and commit our nations as the two largest carbon emitters to make some real changes in how we produce energy.”
In the Middle East and elsewhere, though, there are still challenges to be resolved.
“Syria is heart-breaking. Fighting that is still taking place there is still causing enormous humanitarian disasters. We still have major problems in terms of human rights around the world. We still have problems with poverty.”
The President also said that finding a lasting relationship with China is still a work in progress.
As for his own legacy, he said that could only be assessed in the future.
“I think when you are in the midst of all the issues that we deal with, people always are going to be wondering, ‘Why didn’t that get done, what is happening here?’
“Get back to me 10 years later, 20 years later, and I would be able to tell you how things worked out.”
Watch the full interview exclusively on Channel NewsAsia on Feb 22, 8pm SG/HK with an encore telecast on Feb 23 at 6pm and Feb 24 at 1pm.