Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Obama is not remotely the worst President in US history

By Aaron Sherman

Today, I came across another one of those silly, "Obama is the worst President ever!" claims that you see floating around poorly spelled Facebook posts or Fox News. Usually I brush it off, but tonight I thought it needed a real response. Let me be clear, I'm a moderate who's not always a big fan of Obama. I don't like Obamacare (single payer models are cheaper and more effective) and I'm aghast at the expansion of domestic spying under his and W's administrations. That said, I think calling him the worst President ever is as absurd as any claim I've ever heard in the political realm, and I lived through Reagan claiming that he had no idea that Iran-Contra was going on in his administration and Nixon claiming that he wasn't a crook.

So here was my response, reviewing the past few decades of Presidents.

There's no point in even discussing GWB. If you want a serious analysis of how bad he was, listen to any Republican candidate for President in the primaries for the 2008 race. They were fairly brutally honest. But if you want just one point: he invaded a country (not just attacked) that had not attacked or demonstrated any intention of attacking us; killed thousands of its citizens; and set up an occupying government that helped to radicalize much of the region.

I'd argue that Clinton was slightly more disciplined. Reagan ballooned the deficit (http://goo.gl/KUr0qV) and his administration sold drugs and guns to finance activities that Congress explicitly made illegal (http://goo.gl/E4kXgp). GHWB was actually a fairly decent President, but I'm not sure I'd call him "better" or "worse" than Obama... then again, he was probably the real architect of the aforementioned guns and drugs deal. Interestingly, while Republicans are trying to paint Obama as intractable because he won't agree to gut ACA, Carter was, by his own admission, more unwilling to make deals with Congress, while Obama has sought compromise too often for his own good at times (remember the immediate and unilateral dumping of the "public option"?)

Ford... well, it's hard to measure the effectiveness of someone with zero mandate or support, though I'll note that he took office under excruciating circumstances and left behind a nation that weathered the storm. Nixon was the architect of the "war on drugs" and left office in shame to avoid being brought up on charges, though for all his sins and some fairly ugly years of war, he did bring an end to Vietnam eventually. Johnson was the architect of Vietnam and that will forever be the only legacy people will remember, even though he championed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and other civil rights legislation. Kennedy was the architect of the Bay of Pigs, but overall he was reasonably effective and clear-headed.

If you want to argue that Obama is a worse President than Clinton and Kennedy, then I think that's a fine premise, but I'd still want to see your work. If you're looking for the worst President of all time and you come up with Obama, then you're either being hyperbolic or ignorant. There are a variety of scholarly views on who the worst President was, but James Buchanan certainly does have some claim to that prize that very nearly cost us the nation... literally. (http://goo.gl/wm3ubC)