Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Barack Obama is absent from his own presidency

Today I came across yet another article preposterously claiming Mr Obama is the worst ever US president. This one begins:

Barack Obama isn't running merely the worst American presidency since James Buchanan’s, but the worst imaginable presidency in this day and age. 

I haven't read it beyond the first sentence, nor do I intend to. Life is too short to read idiots, but I shall comment on the first sentence.

I am coming to feel that Mr Obama is absent from his own presidency. He is not really up to the job. His medical reform is probably a good thing but his proposed immigration reform is unforgivable and he has no feel for, nor I suspect interest in, foreign policy. Still to compare a mediocre president with one as disastrous as the last one is in very bad taste indeed. G W Bush will I hope be the worst for all time. 

James Buchanan was not so very bad - Lincoln and Wilson were far worse, the two Johnsons too. 

Bill Clinton from the reputational point of view could not have been luckier in his successor. I was surprised that his reputation was unscathed by Sept 11 - i expected it to suffer like Baldwin's after we went to war with Germany. An angry crowd destroyed the gates to Baldwin's estate. But, in fairness, the Clinton people told the Bush people after the 200 election that Al Qaeda was the number one danger abroad but the Bush people replied that Iraq was. I have read that the USA could have bought Osama Bin Laden from the Taliban but Mrs Clinton told her husband that he must not give money to a regime which oppressed women. This, if true, should destroy her reputation for all time. How much evil Wilsonian liberalism does.

One historian recently said that John Tyler was the best but I have not read nearly enough to know. John Tyler annexed Texas, was on the right, i.e. the Southern, side in the Civil War and seems to have done little harm. Henry Truman was very good if you think the Cold War was necessary. I have grave doubts about Franklin Roosevelt - he was a good war leader if you don't think he should have known about the attack on Pearl Harbor in advance - or if you don't think he did know and allowed it to happen. Abraham Lincoln need not have gone to war against the South and this is enough in my opinion to make him the worst president of all, excepting George W Bush.

None of them are very impressive compared with British Prime Ministers like Disraeli, Palmerston, Gladstone, Salisbury or the Pitts. In fact, Harold Macmillan or Sir Robert Peel were probably better than any American President I can think of. 


  1. I would observe the difference between being a good leader and a good executive. I suspect President Obama is a far better executive than leader, despite his under-employed rhetorical gifts.
    I say executive because it's not just people management but also strategy. I see President Obama as somewhat Churchillian. Very able to lead and inspire, with a clear sense of purpose, but almost inexplicably sometimes refusing to address the people's needs if they seem too trivial or insubstantial.
    And like Churchill I suspect President Obama will be succeeded by someone considerably to his left.

    1. Agreed... but almost fell out of my chair when I read 'will be succeeded by someone considerably to his left". I would love the description of such a unicorn... in the American political landscape it is almost impossible to go further left than Mr. Obama... unless you wade into the psych ward nuts descended from Goldwater or Agnew...which leads me to question what constitutes that definition of 'left'. The only socialist presidents of the modern era further left than Mr.Obama's economics were probably Lyndon B Johnson (an usurper to power) and Franklin D Roosevelt (locked into power by the war, but otherwise an absolute disaster from a national policy perspective... a creator or black markets and a barter economy).

    2. Herbert Hoover wrote a book recently published in which he eviscerates FRR. I wrote about this here. http://pvewood.blogspot.ro/2012/02/how-romania-might-have-avoided.html