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Administration marks first year
Opinions split over Obama
Opinions of President Barack Obama's first year in office varied greatly across Forsyth County. - photo by McClatchy Newspapers
One year after Barack Obama was sworn in as president, Forsyth County Democrats and Republicans offered a progress report on his work so far.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Ross Alexander, political science professor at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega. “Whether he was successful or a failure depends on your partisan point of view.”

Republican John Clark and Democrat Tammy Tanner both agree Obama has done a good job on the international front.

Obama has been “visiting world leaders and changing the impression of the U.S. around the world,” Tanner said.

Added Clark: “As you look at how other nations are viewing the U.S., I think that has improved.”

The two also believe the president’s health care initiative has been among his weakest points, though they disagree on why.

“Trying to push the whole health care thing I think is a huge mistake, but that was the basis of his platform,” Clark said. “I think he has very much polarized the parties.

"He said when he was running for office, his plan was to work on both sides of the aisle, and I don’t think that’s happened very effectively.”

Tanner believes the president’s health care reform efforts have suffered for a different reason.

“I like the idea of a health care bill, but I wish they’d just hurry up and do something and not spend all of this time trying to please everybody, because it will never happen,” she said.

Brad Wilkins organized a local Tea Party event earlier this year in protest of some of the president's actions. He said the health care bill would be a disaster.

“I’m really worried it’s going to do some long-term damage to the country,” he said. “My greatest wish is that he’d rethink that entire policy before it’s too late.”

Wilkins also disagrees with both Tanner and Clark on the president’s efforts to improve international relationships.

“The apology tour going around the world and apologizing to allies and enemies for America’s past actions was a huge mistake,” he said. “We’re in a war and I truly believe that put us in a weaker position and made us look weaker to our enemies.”

Democrat Rob Abraham, who attended Obama’s inauguration after campaigning for him last year, said he has no complaints about the president.

His acknowledges Obama’s decisions haven’t all been popular, but said they are necessary for the long term.

“He’s made some great improvements and he’s done some of the things that are taking a little more time to pay off," Abraham said. "But I think we’re going to come off a lot better for it.

"He’s doing what I campaigned for him to do and what I voted for him to do ... he’s risking and sacrificing a lot of political capital not to just slap a Band-Aid on our problems ... but to rebuild our nation.”

Wilkins and Tanner said making progress in Afghanistan should be among Obama’s highest priorities this year.

Obama needs to continue heeding the advice from his generals on the ground, Tanner said

Said Wilkins: “He needs to increase the pressure on the War on Terror on all fronts. We need to stay on the offensive and we need to keep America safe."

All four said the economy and jobs would also need to be addressed quickly, though solutions varied.

Tanner said green energy and technology could fuel jobs, while Wilkins said a smarter sales tax policy could help stimulate the economy.

Clark said he wants the president to keep an eye out for the little guy.

“So many of the jobs are created with small and mid-sized businesses,” he said. “I think they’re the ones being left out of the economic progress right now. I’d like to see more incentives put in place for [them].”

The current state of the economy has a lot of people talking, Alexander said.

If unemployment was lower, fewer people would be concerned, he said. But because the current unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent and “because the economy is so bad and we’re still at war, people are still expecting a lot."

“He promised a lot in the campaign, all of which, of course, he couldn’t accomplish,” he said. “With a unified government, you should have a relatively high expectation that things are going to get accomplished ... and we didn’t see as much accomplished as maybe we thought we would have.

“Everyone looks at the first 100 days, the first six months, the first year and it’s tough to get a lot done in that time ... the jury is still out.”