In a recent poll, Americans rated Barack Obamas the best President in their life-time. The question is: why?
An easy way to examine the presidents is to look at the Wikipedia summary of many ratings done of them over the years. Start with Woodrow Wilson, #28. Notice that he has mostly blue ratings with two green. This means that most of his ratings are in the top quarter, with two in the second quarter. Then go down to #29, Warren G. Harding. All his ratings are red, which means that he is in the bottom quarter. Then the next two presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover are half red and half orange, meaning that they are in the third and bottom quarter.
The next one is Franklin D. Roosevelt, who is not only solid blue but with very low numbers, meaning that he is at the top of the class. He is followed by Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, who are nearly all blue except for one green for Truman and one green and one orange (for Eisenhower). These three are the last of the obviously good Presidents since 1940.
John Kennedy is green with a smattering of blue and Lyndon Johnson has all green except for four blue.
It’s no surprise that Richard Nixon is half red and orange, and Gerald Ford is mostly orange. Jimmy Carter is basically orange with two red and one green.
Ronald Reagan is much more highly rated than I would have thought with a lot of blue and green but a few orange.
The more recent presidents are not good. George H.W. Bush is evenly split between orange and green. Bill Clinton is all green with one blue and a few oranges. He is somewhat better than Bush and not as good as Reagan. George W. Bush has four red, four orange, and one green. Donald Trump has only two ratings, but they are all red.
And that leaves Barack Obama, who is all green with one blue but no bad ratings. Unlike Reagan, Clinton, and George H.W. Bush, he has no oranges. He doesn’t look as highly rated as Johnson and Kennedy, but with time, that may change.
For my own part, I think Reagan and Clinton are too highly rated. I also think Wilson has too many blue marks, and the same is true for Kennedy and Johnson. Probably it’s too easy to get a blue mark.
Let’s take a quick look at Wilson, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, and Clinton. What’s wrong with them?
Wilson was extremely racist, even by the standards of his time. “Woodrow Wilson was, in fact, a racist pig. He was a racist by current standards, and he was a racist by the standards of the 1910s, a period widely acknowledged by historians as the “nadir” of post–Civil War race relations in the United States.” . . . Wilson’s racism wasn’t the matter of a few unfortunate remarks here or there. It was a core part of his political identity, as indicated both by his anti-black policies as president and by his writings before taking office. It is completely accurate to describe him as a racist and white supremacist and condemn him accordingly.”
You would not know this by looking at his ratings.
John F. Kennedy was possibly the most morally corrupt and reckless president in American history, who came tragically close to bringing about a “nuclear winter” that might have destroyed the United States and other parts of the world. Also, he plunged America into the Vietnam war.
Kennedy’s reckless affairs with women were only outdone by his irresponsible and dangerous relationships with mobsters such as Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana. These two character flaws merged when both Kennedy and Giancana had sexual liaisons with Exner, who was used as their go-between. Indeed, it is doubtful whether Kennedy would have become the president-elect in 1960 if the Mob had not helped him in Illinois and West Virginia – and Giancana claimed credit for that. Kennedy was the son of a bootlegger, and the apple did not fall far from the tree, with respect to all three Kennedy brothers who entered national politics.
Johnson was awful. “So, exactly how repulsive was Johnson? He was horrid enough that the way he said things was almost as bad as what he said. Anyone who came into contact with him was at risk of encountering a spectacle of burping, farting, nose-picking and crotch-scratching.” He transformed the scope of the federal government, pushing through social security acts that created Medicare and Medicaid, the first civil rights acts since reconstruction, the 1965 Voting Rights Act that tackled racial discrimination in southern polling centers, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and the Higher Education Act of 1965. Johnson’s reputation was ruined by 1968 – the disastrous Tet offensive in Vietnam, riots throughout the U.S., and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King contributed to the idea that the country was falling apart, Having said all that, it’s impossible to get away from the fact that Lyndon B Johnson was also a truly awful man.
There are 6 reasons why Reagan was bad.
Statistically Speaking, His Administration Was The Most Corrupt Ever. 138 members of his team were investigated, indicted, or convicted for their roles in various scandals.
“Reaganomics” Are Still Screwing Us. Whatever you call it, the basic thinking is that wealthy people are job creators, and the best way to boost a sluggish economy is to cut taxes on those job creators so they can, you know, create more jobs. In other words, the good fortune of the nation’s richest citizens would eventually trickle down to the less well-off parts of society. Income inequality became significantly worse during the Reaganomics years, at least partly leading to the “one percent” situation we find ourselves in now.
His Stance On Labor Unions Destroyed The Middle Class. If you’ve ever wondered why wages just stopped increasing at some point in the last few decades in this country, the destruction of unions is your answer. Productivity increases, profits go up, worker pay at the lowest levels stays the same. It’s the opposite of how the “American Dream” is supposed to work, and people treat Reagan like a hero for making it all possible.
He Ignored The AIDS Epidemic For Years. What’s especially problematic about our government’s refusal to acknowledge AIDS until 1985 is that for years before that, blood that was infected with the disease was used to make blood-clotting medicine that hemophiliacs rely on to live. Thousands of Americans who took these drugs were infected with HIV. As early as 1983, the Centers for Disease Control suspected AIDS might be spreading through blood plasma products. They held a meeting at the time with members of the pharmaceutical industry which ended with someone from the CDC pounding his fist on the table and asking “How many people have to die before we do something?” The White House didn’t bother looking into it for two more years.
The “Reagan Doctrine” Made The Middle East What It Is Today. We supported the Taliban against Russia, which dumped us eventually into the war in Afghanistan. And let’s not forget the Iran-Contra Affair.
Reagan’s Mental Health Reforms Made Homelessness And Crime Exponentially Worse. The next time a rabid firearms enthusiast says that improving mental health treatment is the answer to controlling gun violence in this country, tell them that they’re probably right, and then remind them how much of a shame it is that their favorite president didn’t see it the same way.
It all started when he was just the lowly governor of California. In 1967, he signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act into law, which made forced institutionalization or medication of people who might be suffering from mental illness significantly more difficult. This followed years of the state moving patients in state-run mental health facilities to group care facilities and boarding houses and such. Or if you’d prefer the elevator pitch version: They kicked the mentally ill out of hospitals and made it harder for them to get back in, should the need ever arise in the future. The homelessness that you see out on the streets today can be traced back to Reagan’s policies.
And we mustn’t forget that (ironically) he suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease through at least half of his Presidency and no one told us about that until years later.
We remember Bill Clinton as a good president because the economy was booming in the 1990s, but that was due far more to the Industrial Revolution-style event we were undergoing with the advent of the internet than anything Clinton did. A golden retriever could have overseen widespread economic growth at the height of the first internet bubble. Bill Clinton’s legacy is jerking the Democratic Party to the right, ending any hope for a truly liberal party in America…until now. What you are currently witnessing on the left is a broad rejection of neoliberal Clintonian economics. Bill Clinton helped sow the seeds for our modern economic malaise as much as anyone over the last forty years, and the millennials who grew up in the 1990s now largely approving of socialism over capitalism is Bill Clinton‘s ultimate legacy.
Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall, which was one of the first things we did in the wake of the Great Depression. That law ensured that banks couldn’t gamble with your checking and savings accounts, and is one of the main structural responsibilities for the 2008 crisis. Clinton’s pro-Wall Street policies imbued America’s largest casino with bipartisan super powers they had never fully enjoyed, and they took their new largesse and used it to wreck the economy less than a decade after Clinton left office.
Clinton also oversaw one of the largest prison expansions in human history, thanks to Joe Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill. He also had 4 mistresses at various times in his life and had a 22 year girl (Monica Lewinsky) as his toy during the early years of his presidency. And this led to his impeachment.
Looking back at the flaws of these presidents, one can understand why Obama is the best. He could have made Obamacare a single-payer healthcare system but he did not have the skills of a Johnson to bring it through. He allowed the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars to drag on. But he did not have some of the terrible flaws of Clinton, Reagan, and George W. By comparison, he looks sterling.