I think a simple way of determining whether a president should be viewed kindly or with scorn…whether they were effective leaders or not…is to figure out what the people think of when they think of a president – what one issue do they tie to each man on the international front…and on the economic front?
For example, if you go back and look at poll results from the last six presidents…you’ll find that it looks something like this (name: national issue / international issue):
Jimmy Carter: Tax hikes and the rise of entitlement spending / Energy Crisis
Reagan: Trickle-down Economics / The downfall of Communist Russia
Bush Sr: Read my lips (oops) / Desert Storm
Clinton: Balanced Budget (including Welfare Reform) / Kosovo and Milosovich
Dubya: No Child Left Behind and Education Vouchers / Operational Iraqi Freedom and the War on Terror
Obama: Obamacare / …um…I guess he’ll be defined by his dealings with Egypt?
On this spectrum…do we see anything that is an unquestionable good thing?
Reagan’s destruction of Russia (granted…this was on the back of other presidents and following a course first laid out by Truman)…his successful negotiation of the international waters…should be considered a fantastic victory. Clinton’s reform of the budget was also a great victory by modern standards. I’m not just singling out GOP leaders here…I think Clinton’s economic policy was well informed…I actually think that, on the whole, he did a very good job listening to the GOP controlled House Appropriations and Senate Appropriations committees and putting sensible measures in place to fix the budget. It got broken again later, but for a short time…he did something really well.
Are there any unquestioned failures on that list?
Well, whether you think OIF was justified or not, I think we can all agree that Bush Jr. was a diplomatic failure…that he couldn’t convince the western governments of the threat posed by dictators who kill hundreds of thousands of their own people speaks to his poor communication skill. And what’s worse…that he began OIF with a tremendous public support that vanished a year later because the war was run so poorly speaks to his failure as a strategist and his failure to convince his own people that this war was just.
I would also declare Carter’s economic policies an unquestioned failure. The energy crisis was almost entirely his fault with his idiotic price controls. His high tax rates whipped Americans into a sense of frustration and hopelessness that only Reagan could break. Well…that and the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team.
And I think we can generally agree that Bush Sr. was a LOUSY economist, unlike Reagan.
And then we come to Obamacare…the bill sponsored by a man so vain and egotistical that it had to carry his name. The bill that may be about to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court…it’ll be a close vote (and that, by itself, is a bad sign…LOL). The bill that has already been voted down by a new Congress. The bill that currently has an approval rating of 28%. OUCH!
It’s too early to declare it an UNQUESTIONED failure…but it will be quite a statement if Obama’s first term is marked only by a bill that turns out to be as big a failure as it currently appears. And an even bigger statement if that bill continues to bear his name into history. Some would call that the very definition of failure as a leader and as a man. Maybe they should change that annoying Google link between George W. Bush and failure.