1. Ended the War in Iraq: Ordered all U.S. military forces out of the country. Last troops left on December 18, 2011.
2. Began Drawdown of War in Afghanistan: From a peak of 101,000 troops in June 2011, U.S. forces are now down to 91,000, with 23,000 slated to leave by the end of summer 2012. According to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the combat mission there will be over by next year.
3. Eliminated Osama bin laden: In 2011, ordered special forces raid of secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which the terrorist leader was killed and a trove of al-Qaeda documents was discovered.
4. Turned Around U.S. Auto Industry: In 2009, injected $62 billion in federal money (on top of $13.4 billion in loans from the Bush administration) into ailing GM and Chrysler in return for equity stakes and agreements for massive restructuring. Since bottoming out in 2009, the auto industry has added more than 100,000 jobs. In 2011, the Big Three automakers all gained market share for the first time in two decades. The government expects to lose $16 billion of its investment, less if the price of the GM stock it still owns increases.
5. Recapitalized Banks: In the midst of financial crisis, approved controversial Treasury Department plan to lure private capital into the country’s largest banks via “stress tests” of their balance sheets and a public-private fund to buy their “toxic” assets. Got banks back on their feet at essentially zero cost to the government.
6. Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: Ended 1990s-era restriction and formalized new policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time.
7. Toppled Moammar Gaddafi:In March 2011, joined a coalition of European and Arab governments in military action, including air power and naval blockade, against Gaddafi regime to defend Libyan civilians and support rebel troops. Gaddafi’s 42-year rule ended when the dictator was overthrown and killed by rebels on October 20, 2011. No American lives were lost.
8. Told Mubarak to Go: On February 1, 2011, publicly called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to accept reform or step down, thus weakening the dictator’s position and putting America on the right side of the Arab Spring. Mubarak ended 30-year rule when overthrown on February 11.
9. Reversed Bush Torture Policies: Two days after taking office, nullified Bush-era rulings that had allowed detainees in U.S. custody to undergo certain “enhanced” interrogation techniques considered inhumane under the Geneva Conventions. Also released the secret Bush legal rulings supporting the use of these techniques.
10. Improved America’s Image Abroad: With new policies, diplomacy, and rhetoric, reversed a sharp decline in world opinion toward the U.S. (and the corresponding loss of “soft power”) during the Bush years. From 2008 to 2011, favorable opinion toward the United States rose in 10 of 15 countries surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, with an average increase of 26 percent.
11. Kicked Banks Out of Federal Student Loan Program, Expanded Pell Grant Spending: As part of the 2010 health care reform bill, signed measure ending the wasteful decades-old practice of subsidizing banks to provide college loans. Starting July 2010 all students began getting their federal student loans directly from the federal government. Treasury will save $67 billion over ten years, $36 billion of which will go to expanding Pell Grants to lower-income students.
12. Created Race to the Top: With funds from stimulus, started $4.35 billion program of competitive grants to encourage and reward states for education reform.