Obama’s Eight Year Verdict
If you want you be thought of as a great American president, it helps to be elected to two terms. One-term presidents can do great things, and even win a war, but not winning a second term generally overshadows everything you do. But a second term is no guarantee of greatness. Nixon and Bush are good examples of second terms squandered to scandal and disgrace.
Barack Obama isn’t great yet. The American voters have seen fit to entrust our nation to his leadership for another four year term, but it will take a combination of his actions and the distance of history to determine greatness.
Take FDR. It’s taken as a fait accompli, especially among the left, that his presidency was great. And of course, no president will have the opportunity he did to remake America in his own image with domestic and foreign policy. No president will ever have the luxury of four elections again. But many of Roosevelt’s contemporaries made complaints about his presidency that would sound familiar next to today’s Obama’s liberal critics. It’s difficult to make a fair assessment of policy this close to its passage – particularly something as sweeping as health care reform, for instance.
It also helps to have something to compare it too. While I would still argue that too much of the policy passed under President Clinton was influenced by conservatism, the Bush presidency helped to make me appreciate the very real differences between the two parties. That’s why, in the midst of an economic recovery, Clinton is very much “the good old years” in human form.
Sometimes policies are instantly proven wrong. There were no WMDs. The lives lost in Iraq were lost for no good reason. But sometimes we need the distance of history to make a true judgement.
Obama could be great. This could be his moment. But while we have every right to hold his feet to the fire, we should also remember that each day is just a sliver of the entire image. Obama will be judged on the entire eight years of his time in office, but there’s not enough evidence yet to render a verdict.
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