Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Is Barack Obama the Fourth Best President? Obama Says His Accomplishments Rank Higher Than Those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson

In what many analysts are calling a stunning display of hubris, President Barack Obama says he would put his record up against any President with the "possible exception" of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. In an interview with 60 Minutes, the President said: "I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history."

Obama's boast is understandably drawing scorn from the blogosphere. After all, the current President of the United States is ranking his accomplishments as greater than those of Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and just about every other President. Obama allows for the "possible exception" of Lincoln, FDR, and LBJ.

Since this blog is focused on the American Revolution and Founding Era, I will withhold commentary on how Obama ranks against Ronald Reagan (who led the USA to victory in the Cold War), Dwight Eisenhower (who gave us the Interstate Highway System), and Teddy Roosevelt (Panama Canal, Great White Fleet, helping end the Russo-Japanese War, etc.). Instead, I will briefly comment on Obama's claim that his accomplishments rank higher than those of our founding era Presidents, including James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

Ranking the Presidents

First of all, most presidential historians agree that it takes 20 years of separation and reflection before one can even begin to accurately assess a President's place in history. That means it's way too early for us to fully grasp George W. Bush's legacy in American history as well as Bill Clinton's. And it's naturally way, way too early to talk about Obama's legacy. Of course, with some Presidents, a comparison is easy. I have no problem with Obama saying he's accomplished more than James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, or Franklin Pierce. Such comparisons are easy. But to place himself, at this stage of his presidency, against Madison, Jefferson, Washington, or even John Adams is a bit presumptuous, to say the least.

Comparing Obama With Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison

President Obama led the nation through a massive overhaul of its health care system, ordered the assassination of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, and ended America's troop presence in Iraq. Additionally, Obama has pushed through several social policy changes popular with his progressive base, such as ending "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) in the armed forces. Most of Obama's record is still hotly debated and much of the changes he's pushed through could be reversed or significantly modified in the next several years.

By contrast, the United States stands pretty solidly on the accomplishments of our founding era Presidents. Madison led the nation successfully (albeit painfully) through the War of 1812. Jefferson gave us the Louisiana Purchase and the first President Adams avoided war with France during a very fragile time for the  United States. And then there's George Washington, who basically fleshed out the U.S. government that had been but a blueprint on parchment. While Obama may not be impressed with Washington's accomplishments, the first President created the Cabinet, supported the economic policies of Alexander Hamilton which solidified the nation's financial health, kept the nation at peace with Great Britain, put down the Whiskey Rebellion, steered the nation toward neutrality in foreign affairs (thus preserving America's identity as a separate power), and established the two-term precedent for American Presidents.

Of course, I've only scratched the surface with our founding era Presidents. In fact, I barely even got into the accomplishments of Madison and Jefferson. For Obama to essentially dismiss them, along with George Washington, shows incredible hubris. And it may show something else that's even more troubling. For a sitting U.S. President to show such little regard for the American founding era and its iconic heroes like Washington calls into serious question his grasp of the fundamentals of American government and the very heart of our nation's heritage. Forgive me for being political, but I simply can't vote for such a President.

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