In an argument on DC’s forums last year, amidst all the caterwauling, hair tearing, and general hatassery concerning the President and the upcoming elections, I proposed the following;
Barack Obama could well be considered the best President since Dwight D. Eisenhower
I said it at the time largely because I like to take a devil’s advocate position, but I also said it because I’ve become quite weary over the last 6 years listening to idiots run down the sitting president. Generally, I’m right there with them. I mean, given the track record of U.S. presidents in recent history, it’s not hard to thrash a president and have a receptive audience. Let me run down a bit of the history of presidents over the past fifty years, just so you can get a feel for where I’m coming from.
I first started paying attention to politics when Carter was in office. I couldn’t vote back then, but I thought Carter was getting a raw deal leading up to the election of 1980. His policies weren’t anything to brag about, but the weakness of the president and the country that conservatives railed about was largely an illusion that they invented simply as a tool to use against him. As history has demonstrated, Reagan didn’t know anything more than how to hit a mark and say a line (mostly) correctly; and people in his employ did negotiate with the Iranian hostage takers. In 1984. Negotiate again in 1984? Who knows.
Reagan’s term in office was hardly anything to brag about either, in spite of what armies of conservatives say on the subject. During Reagan’s term in office the Soviet Union did begin to collapse, and the Berlin wall did fall during his VP’s only term as President; but the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall that represented it had almost nothing to do with US policies in the region and had everything to do with the ham-handed bureaucrats in the USSR. The Soviet Union falling was a result of Glasnost, a call by the Soviet people and their president who was specifically elected to usher in a new era of openness. (fixed that sentence. -ed.) What Reagan should be known for, the albatross that he should wear, is Reaganomics or trickle-down economics, which has been shown to be a complete failure and has actually contributed more to economic instability than any other action committed by any other US executive in modern history.
Reagan’s real legacy is the S&L debacle, brought about by loosening regulations on financial institutions, almost exactly as predicted by people opposed to that action. The Iran-Contra affair that I mentioned previously barely moves the needle compared to the destructiveness of Reaganomics.
But Ronald Reagan was popular and was elected to two terms. His popularity even earned his Vice-President, an almost unknown political animal named George Herbert Walker Bush, a term as President. (Listen to Bagman and hear how he helped Spiro Agnew avoid prosecution, and then sought out Spiro Agnew’s advice on how to beat governor Dukakis. -ed.) But the damage done by Reaganomics continued to plague the nation, and not even a short, victorious, righteous war to stymie the aggression of a Middle Eastern dictator could secure him a second term in office.
As a peacenik, someone opposed to war in general if not in principle, George H.W. Bush’s willingness to go to war didn’t earn any points with me. None of the things his successor said or did made me believe he was any different. Bill Clinton’s term in office benefitted from the investment of the LBJ administration in space technology, in the form of microchips that were finally small and powerful enough to drive the information technology revolution that we are in the middle of; which makes his term in office seem halcyon in hindsight. But his willingness to involve the US directly in every crisis that made global news (with the exception of Rwanda. Which he says he wishes he’d gotten involved in as well) lobbing missiles like they were footballs at every hotspot on the globe, provided the grist for the mill of anti-American sentiment around the world.
Packing a bomb which exploded on 9-11. That’s the takeaway that history will draw from this era, the post-post WWII decades. This will be the time when the US fumbled the ball handed to it by the old-world European powers, and let someone else take up the lead internationally (who that will be remains in question) That is what this time will be remembered for. the election of Bush II will not be remembered for what Al Gore supporters would like it to be remembered for (the theft of the 2000 election. A footnote to what happened in 2016. –ed.) but for the results of America being asleep at the wheel internationally almost since the end of the Vietnam war. To be involved is to take an interest in the problems of the people around the world. Not to give payola to their leaders and lob missiles at them when they start to tear down the governments they no longer support.
Bush II didn’t steal the election, he simply won it on a technicality. Because of this, he got to be the guy in charge when 9-11 happened. The saying roughly goes we get the best enemies money can buy and we made the enemies who attacked us on 9-11; both figuratively and in reality. We trained a good number of terrorists to resist the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, including some who later worked for Al Qaeda, possibly even OBL himself. The administration was warned but ignored those warnings, and then set about fighting a war that would end up being the longest in US history, and arranged for that war to occur based on false evidence. In the process the Bush II administration destroyed American credibility on the world stage (whatever was left of it) torturing innocent people who just happened to be in a warzone at the wrong time.
To finish off his term, Bush II also failed to act on the looming financial crisis (also about which he was warned) and consequently handed the election of the next President to the Democrats. Handed the election to the Democrats who could have run the proverbial yellow dog, and it would have won. If it hadn’t been for Sarah Palin’s circus show, there wouldn’t have been anything of interest about the election of 2008.
With that as a backdrop, you can imagine what I thought of Barack Obama going into his first term. Don’t get me wrong, I voted for him in the primary in a vain (?) effort to throw the election his way instead of towards Hillary Clinton (I have no use for political dynasties) but I voted straight Libertarian for my last time in that general election. Held my nose and voted for a Republican in Libertarian clothing.
President Obama (surprisingly) did most of what he promised he would do in the election. Yes he did crater on a lot of issues that privacy advocates and conspiracy mongers think he should have taken a hard line on (failed to deliver mortgage relief too. –ed.) He did try ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and no matter how much saber rattling conservatives do, the anarchy currently afoot in Syria/Iraq doesn’t amount to much in the scheme of things unless you happen to have business there. Happen to live there (if you do, you have my sympathy. But do you really want to help Bashar Assad stay in power? Really?) The Syrian revolution managed to win the Republicans seats in the midterms, blowing out the possibility of a more productive congress in 2015, but in the end they remain on the wrong side of history.
Why, you ask? Why are they on the wrong side of history? Why would Obama be considered a good President? Because the general trends are predictive and obvious. I tripped over them even if you, dear reader, did not.
Since the Cold War ended and we blithely went on unchanging in or priorities, the Old World powers found their legs and stood on their own again. If you want to visit countries with the highest ratings for health, productivity, happiness, etcetera, look no further than the old economies that hard liners in the US still wrongly dismiss. Proof of this can be found by the ease with which Germany absorbed the poorer provinces of Eastern Germany, long held back under Soviet rule. How the French absorb refugees into France at a rate that rivals the US.
Canada’s adoption of the Canada Health Act hasn’t proved disastrous for the Canadian economy as predicted. It’s services continue to improve at an impressive rate, leaving the US in the dust. Even Mexico City has better healthcare than we have in the US, finally making the claims of liberal agitators like Michael Moore truthful, if only in hindsight.
The writing is on the wall, has been on the wall for sometime and US citizens apparently never noticed. Socialized medicine, for lack of a better appellation, appears to be the future. The notion that individuals can pay for health services as needed and build the kind of infrastructure that the average person wants (emergency services, research, etc) has been effectively shown to be a pipe dream; and that systems can and do function with the amount of complexity required to provide services in a timely fashion.
Ergo we will all be charged something to provide the services we all say we want but don’t want to pay for, or rather, underestimate the cost of. But that subject is beside the point I’m trying to make, and I don’t want to get distracted from it.
Every President since and including FDR talked about doing something about healthcare in the US. Every President since Truman has actively asked for and/or crafted legislation to fix the US healthcare system. Barack Obama, in the face of the stiffest opposition faced by any President in US history, helped to craft compromise legislation that at least advances the goal of universal access to healthcare for the first time in US history. No one likes it to be sure, but it appears to be working all the same.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is out this morning and reveals that 15.9 percent of American adults are now uninsured, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months of 2013 and has shown improvements in every major demographic group with the exception of Hispanics who did not advance.Courtesy; Forbes “The Real Numbers On ‘The Obamacare Effect’ Are In-Now Let The Crow Eating Begin”
If the Affordable Care Act continues working, if we actually expand on the basics of standardized healthcare provision set down by the Obama administration, What then? When Presidents back to the time of Truman tried to get this done?
Because Eisenhower was the last President to put his name on a fundamental change that was positive to the US as a whole. Lyndon Baines Johnson might have done this with his Great Society had his plans worked out, but his term was marred with the Vietnam War, which could have been avoided and dominates both his legacy and Kennedy’s legacy, even in the face of the Voting Rights Act. Eisenhower managed to avoid any major conflicts, and he established the Interstate Highway System with funds Congress had given to the military.
I’m not planning on doing an exhaustive search back though 60 years of Presidential history just to make my simple point. When I first proposed the idea, I stated it as best President in our lifetimes not best president since Eisenhower. I was born in the age of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and while his ending was tragic, what LBJ achieved in his name was of more importance than anything he did aside from not starting World War Three during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the grand scheme of things that is what he will be remembered for, aside from his words that took us to the moon on LBJ’s watch.
Which is really all that matters to history.
LBJ might pull a close second, even with Vietnam on his record, but that just really speaks to the lackluster nature of our leaders post-WW II, not to any high achievement on LBJ’s record.
I’ve heard similar talk in the news lately, which is why this subject came back to mind, the subject of Obama’s greatness. Obama took the shellacking of his party in stride and decided he wouldn’t sit out the last two years of his Presidency and play golf; at least not yet anyway (If you ask me he’s earned it, having taken less vacation than the last two Presidents) he took his Presidential pen in hand (something else he’s done less than recent Presidents) in order to reduce the suffering of people that were within his power to help.
It is noteworthy that every president since and including Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower has taken executive action on immigration without facing threats of lawsuits, government shutdowns, impeachment, or loss of executive authority.GOP Lie Debunked: Every President Since Eisenhower Used Executive Authority On Immigration
The title caught my eye Every President Since Eisenhower. Well that’s interesting. It’s not a recommendation, but it is a true observation on the consistent obstinacy of the houses of the US Congress across the decades. It seems like Americans have a hangup when it comes to the subject of immigration. So I went looking farther. A piece from this time last year in the New York Times lays the case out pretty well;
Mr. Obama, barring tragedy or resignation, will get to serve eight years, but his margin of victory last November was not overwhelming. He won 62 percent of the electoral vote, which ranks 16th among the 30 presidents who sought re-election after their first terms. Mr. Obama’s electoral vote percentage was better than any of the 10 first-term losers, of course — but among the 20 winners, it exceeded only James Madison in 1812, Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Harry Truman in 1948 and George W. Bush in 2004.Contemplating Obama’s Place in History, Statistically
BY NATE SILVER
JANUARY 23, 2013
That’s just going on percentages. Puts him in the running with Clinton, well below Eisenhower or LBJ in historical importance based on electoral percentage.
But that’s a little dry, don’t you think? Surely it means more than that, historical importance? More than the President’s popularity with the voting public? Not necessarily. Specifically, I have a hard time believing that Reagan will maintain his high rating (historically ranked 10th in importance) even with his overwhelming second-term victory percentages, given the looting that his administration ushered in and is only now coming to light.
Still, the cost-cutters will be hard pressed to nay-say Barack Obama’s place in history if he stays on course through the rest of his term. Check out the stats in this image from Forbes.
You are reading that right. Obama was the most conservative federal spender since Dwight D. Eisenhower. Don’t hold your breath waiting for your conservative outlets to spin this the right way, they won’t be doing that. They might even take the Heritage Foundation’s tack on the subject and insist that Bush II’s war costs should be saddled on President Obama. In any case, the groundwork has been laid. My work here is done. Barack Obama is the best US President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. Financially speaking.
When I say that Obama was the best President since Eisenhower, this shouldn’t be seen as a compliment to Obama or to Eisenhower. I just want to make this point clear. It’s an observation on just how predatory our government has been in the past and continues to be at present. Imagine what our society, the culture in the United States, would look like if Americans thought of themselves as not engaged in a zero-sum competition with their fellows? If we elected a government that actually focused on common welfare and not killing perceived threats to our ever-diminishing piece of the pie?
That is how Obama is/was different than his predecessors since Eisenhower, or at least since Carter. This is the first time the military agenda hasn’t dominated every second of the sitting president’s time. The first time in decades that any social advancement has been registered; or more precisely, the first time the downward slide of the average American has been noted publicly.
What I find amusing in this Trumpist hellhole we have been trapped in, is that a lot of people are now saying that Obama was the best president during their lifetimes. So all the flack I got when I said the very same thing in 2014 means absolutely as little as I thought it did then. I was right, for once. We as citizens should build on this discovery, that Obama was the best president of our own experienced lives, rather than be distracted by the same-old glittery glamour of sabre-rattling and outright warfare that has come to be synonymous with US policy since WWII.
We will look back on the Obama years as a halcyon moment we should have known to cherish. Because it will be a long time before we ever have it that good again.
This office is bigger than any one person.Barack Obama
2 thoughts on “Obama Best President Since Eisenhower”
I don’t know who I think the best president is. They all had some success and some screw ups. I would say Jimmy Carter is the best man who’s been president in my lifetime. I started paying attention to politics (at least Presidents) with Nixon. Ford was probably better than I give him credit for, but I was still pretty pissed about him pardoning Nixon, et al. That, IMHO, set a bad precedent of not investigating crimes committed by prior administrations. And those guys in Nixon’s admin got to serve in later Republican admins.
Enjoyed the article. I don’t disagree, mostly. The Berlin Wall did NOT come down during Reagan’s terms, btw. It came down in 1989 when Bush I was president. This is a pet peeve of mine. Every damn time someone talks about the wall, they run Reagan’s speech where he calls for the wall to come down, as though that’s what caused it – 2.5 years later. Like no other President pushed for that. Like you said it was them, not us. Also, can I just object to referring to Hillary as being part of a “dynasty”. A dynasty is generational or possibly siblings, they idea being you inherit power or at least name recognition from someone else that you didn’t earn. Hillary worked with Bill to establish the Clinton name. She actually had accomplishments in her name before they got together. She was the first ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley. She was sufficiently good she was written about in LIFE magazine. She worked on part of the Watergate inquiry committee as a Yale law school graduate. Then she married Bill, a man who came from a small town in Arkansas from very modest means. It makes me bonkers when people refer to them as a dynasty and compare them to the Bushes or the Kennedys. I also find it irritating when people who voted against her in 2008 because “dynasty” now are advocating for Michelle Obama. Michelle seems like a nice, smart person, but her only political experience is as a political wife.
I don’t know that I agree that Obama faced the stiffest opposition of any president. Stiff opposition certainly. Unreasonable, tribal opposition – absolutely. Carter faced opposition from both sides. Everyone hated the southerner who talked funny and was such a self-righteous, goody-two shoes, tightwad. The pundits & the intelligentsia were appalled when Ms. Carter announced that she wasn’t redecorating the white house (it was fine, why spend the money) and then wore the SAME DRESS to the inaugural balls that she had worn to the inaugural ball in Georgia when he was Gov. Saturday Night Live used to run skits making fun of their 9 year old daughter, Amy (who they sent to public school), saying she was stupid and ugly. There was a TV show on at the time, called Carter Country, about folks in Plains, it was a sitcom showing them as being rubes. His health care plan was defeated by a Democratically controlled House. Had he had a second term, we would be in a much better place environmentally. Reagan did the same thing to Carter that trump did Obama, systematically tearing down and reversing everything he did. In addition to Reaganomics (voodoo economics) he destroyed what mental health services we had in this country. Ms. Reagan called the White House shortly after the election asking to measure the “tacky” drapes in the Oval, so she could replace them immediately. Republicans declared that the “Glamor” had returned to the White House. Thinking that Republicans would never lose the White House, they were outraged that another southern bumpkin won the Presidency. They started investigating them for “travelgate” in 1993, an Independent counsel was appointed, with an investigation that literally investigated them for murdering Vince Foster, Whitewater, a bunch of other charges, delivered an impeachment charge, then continued until 2000, three weeks before Hillary’s Senate election. The only reason travelgate was ever a thing, IMHO, was because the folks fired were besties with the press corps. They handled the Press Corps travel arrangements. They kept crappy records, but remembered the personal likes and dislikes of the press. The press raised holy hell and the Republicans took it from there. Some in the press never forgave the Clintons. I don’t think Obama’s healthcare plan had as much advertising against it as Hillary’s did. The Clinton’s created CHIP for kids after their plan failed. It’s not perfect, but it at least made the idea that all kids under 18 should have health care. It helped us a lot when Bear lost his job.
I like the Obamas. He served with dignity, grace and intelligence, very aware that everything he did would be under a microscope. It’s hard to be first. If he lives long enough, he might become #1 on my list of best person to ever be President. I was always confused by how people saw him. He was never a Liberal Democrat. His positions were centrist, very similar to Hillary’s. He ran the first time on the idea that she was too divisive and he would reach out to the Republicans rationally and they would respond and work with him. Which Hillary pretty much met with derision, which was probably a misstep. However, a number of people saw him as way more liberal than she was and then they were really disappointed. He did really reach out to the Republicans, and they immediately called him the most divisive president in history.
Which President you think is “the best” depends on what you are judging them on. Your standard of fundamental change that was a positive good for everyone is a good standard. I like that Bush I got the ADA passed. Not a great law, but again it got us to thinking maybe the disabled should be able to participate in society, too. Special Ed law got a good reworking under him too. The idea of FAPE, free, appropriate public education, was established then. Made a huge difference in who got to go to public school. The craziness about the ACA website was really stupid.
Sorry this ran so long and took me so long to write. You probably would have preferred I just said, “Great Article!”, since I do agree with your central point. LOL.
I fixed the sentence about the wall. I wish I had taken the time to check my memory before writing the original. I distrust “great post” comments. Nearly every spammer says “great post” and then links to their Viagra supplier.