America reflects on Obama’s two years

Two years ago Washington welcomed Barack Obama to the White House. But halfway through the President's first term, the streets of Washington tell a different story.

­Frustration at broken promises like closing Guantanamo Bay, despair from the middle class over the struggling economy and young people's disillusionment with Obama’s failure to change the system are common conversation pieces.

Activist Jerica Arents protested the President's failure to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in front of the White House.

"We are here to force him, to confront him, to say you said this at one time, you knew it was important to the American people, and you need to recommit to doing this," said Arents.

College student Brittany Steer said that if she could sit down with Obama, she would ask why he hasn't done more to make higher education affordable.

"The fact that I'm going to college down the street from the White House and can't pay for it so I have to move home, that's a big thing," Steer said. "You hear people talk about how we want to become the big superpower again and it's going to take education to get that."

At Ben’s Chili Bowl in the historically African American U Street neighborhood, the line wrapped around the block on Inauguration Day.

Owner Nizam Ali remembers a segregated Washington where blacks couldn’t eat in restaurants downtown.

"To go from that to a black president was very special for us, for all of America, and for U Street," said Ali. "The fact that he came here to Ben's Chili Bowl 10 days before his inauguration just says it all, it's incredible."

Jade Hardy met the President at Ben's two years ago. Now, she says, she's frustrated by the slow job growth.

"He came in here and I met him, and it was the best day of my life," Hardy commented. "I went all the way home to North Carolina to vote. But I thought that we were going to get more jobs quicker, I thought the economy was going to get better quicker."

But for all of the frustrations and disappointments, from the ongoing war in Afghanistan to sluggish job growth and stalled reforms, President Obama is still on the short list of people who eat free at Ben’s.

James Joyner, the managing editor at the Atlantic Council said very little has changed from the Bush administration, specifically on foreign policy. He graded Obama with a “Gentleman’s C” for his mixed record, thus far.

He acknowledged there have been significant efforts on the domestic front, including the accomplishment of passing healthcare reforms and the NEW START Treaty.

Obama had promised to repeal the Bush era tax cuts, lower unemployment, close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and pass immigration reform by this point in his term. He has yet to accomplish any of those tasks.

I think the failure to close Guantanamo is a little embarrassing given the amount of talking he made about it, but I don’t think anybody much cares outside the most hardcore Democratic supporters. I don’t think the average American is clamoring, oh gee wiz, we still have Guantanamo open,” he commented.

Like the lack of care over Guantanamo, most Americans will look back Obama’s failure to pass other promised reforms, because they had limited appeal to specific groups and will not affect overall opinion.

Looking forward to the 2012 presidential election, how the economy and job market changes and who steps forward as opposing candidates will be most important.

At same time, there is little competition from the Republican Party.

I don’t think there’s anybody right now. Certainly Sarah Palin has no chance against him,” remarked Joyner. “We tend to reelect presidents unless there is a really compelling alternative, and right now I don’t see one on the horizon.”

Ed Morrissey, the editor of said it’s hard to rate Obama’s term before the end but, currently he deserves a D-. Thom Hartmann, the host of RT’s The Big Picture remarked however that he would grade Obama with a B.

Obama did bring about some success, but much of his policies have been failures or broken promises, argued Morrissey. Hartmann however, citing great successes on healthcare reform, New START Treaty, changes to war policy and domestic policy said Obama has accomplished quite a bit, even though many progressives hoped for more, such as ending the Bush tax cuts, closing Guantanamo Bay and addressing unemployment and immigration.

I think unemployment is going to be the greatest,” Morrissey said. “That’s the one that’s really going to hurt the most. I think some of the others things that you’ve mentioned didn’t get done because they didn’t really matter.”

There’s a difference between campaigning and governing,” Hartmann added. “There are a lot of areas where progressives are disappointed, that said the alternative of having a Republican president, in my opinion, absolutely would have been a disaster. I’m willing to cut him some slack on some of those things.”

Morrissey argued however that under Republican John McCain things would not have been too different.

McCain also campaigned on the promise to closing Guantanamo Bay and I think he would have found it just as difficult to do so,” he said.

He explained that in 2012 he hopes to see shifts in policy, a direction back to deregulation under a Republican president. To the contrary, Obama not being reelected would be very bad for America, argued Hartmann.

I am hopeful,” Hartmann said. “I am very concerned about having a conservative in the White House.”