TIME: Barack Obama’s right-wing opponents cast him as a socialist failure. His left-wing hecklers see him as an overcautious hedger. But, critics notwithstanding, the President is on a path to be a huge success by the time of November’s midterm elections. Before the jabberers on the right (What about the huge debt, the broken tax pledge, the paucity of overseas accomplishments?), the yammerers on the left (Guantánamo hasn’t been closed, gays aren’t serving openly in the military, and too many policies cater to business interests) and the chides in the media (POTUS and party poll numbers are down, and Washington is more partisan than ever), look at the two key metrics that underscore Obama’s accomplishments. It is too early to assess the ultimate measure of victory: whether the President’s actions have been prudent and beneficial, domestically and internationally. But by Election Day 2010, Obama will have soundly achieved many of his chief campaign promises while running a highly competent, scandal-free government. Not bad for a guy whose opponents (in both parties) for the White House suggested that he was too green in national life to know how to do the job — and whose presidency began in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis that demanded urgent attention and commanded much of his focus.
The health care bill’s passage is, of course, the White House’s signal achievement, and was accomplished without revealing the Administration’s cognizance (thanks to internal polling and focus groups) of the legislation’s stark unpopularity among the public. But beyond health care, Obama acted decisively to stop the world from going into economic depression, after inheriting a mess from his predecessor. Quibble all you wish about the dimensions of the stimulus law or the administration of TARP or the Detroit bailout, but the actions taken were professionally handled, apparently necessary and, so far, constructive. Strikingly underrated by the Washington press corps are Obama’s gains on education policy, including a willingness to confront the education establishment on standards for both teachers and students. Overseas, Obama has snagged an arms-reduction deal with Russia, managed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq exactly as promised, eliminated numerous terrorist leaders through an aggressive targeting operation and laid the groundwork for dealing with Iran and, perhaps, North Korea.
In the months ahead, the President will likely pass a financial-regulation overhaul (despite this past weekend’s snags), manage the confirmation of a second Supreme Court nominee with relatively little commotion, announce the reduction of the U.S. troop level in Iraq to about 50,000, showcase the undercovered gains on education reform, take advantage of the improving economy to tout his stimulus efforts and sharpen his “Obama-Biden future vs. Bush-Cheney past” argument to help stave off massive Democratic losses in November. He also has a decent chance to pass a small-to-medium-size energy bill. True, some promises, like comprehensive immigration reform, will remain on the sidelines, but most of his major goals will be completed or well under way. MORE