Will Obama be a great president?

Politics aside, nothing I have seen or heard yet captures the historic significance of the election and inauguration of Barack Obama as president. 

Some comparisons are made to Lincoln but that is a bit presumptuous, since it implies his presidency will be great too.  Yes, both were unlikely Illinois lawyers who rose from obscurity.  Otherwise it is an exercise in comparing apples with oranges.  Lincoln lived for fourteen years in a one room cabin in Indiana, with only a handful of books.  His father spent his early years chasing down runaway slaves and beating them before handing them back to their masters.

Unlike Lincoln, Barack Obama did not live in isolation.  He arguably knows the world better than any other American president, for he has not only been whisked in and out of international airports and five star hotels, he has lived overseas among the people, and gone to school overseas, in Indonesia, no less, the largest Islamic nation on earth.

A better comparison would be with Andrew Jackson, our seventh president.  The first six were all American aristocrats, if you will.  They all hailed from either Virginia or Massachusetts. At the time, American power was an oligarchy of plantation, slave owning, gentlemen or New England third generation patriot patricians, from the same family.  Jackson, a man of the people, and a man of “the west,” as in Tennessee, awakened the American dream.  Anything was possible. 

But even the comparison to Andrew Jackson is pale and blurry.

One really has to go outside of presidential history to find a comparison.  Neil Armstrong landing on the moon? 

I know that sounds a bit much to some but remember that many of the men who wrote and debated and voted for those soaring words – “all men are created equal” – owned African American slaves, men, women and children.  Their words and concepts were revolutionary and helped inspire changes throughout the centuries and throughout the world.  And yet the authors were seemingly blind to their inconsistency.

It was much like Edmund Hillary, being declared the first man to the top of Mt. Everest.  His accompanying Sherpa didn’t count.  He was a servant.

There are high expectations for the presidency of Barack Obama, because he follows an unpopular president and because the economy has fallen so fast and so far that it is assumed it will rebound sometime in the next four years and he will garner the glory.  The second coming of FDR, his team confidently pronounces.

But only one president, of the last eight, left office with any degree of dignity or with any sense of success.  Only one.  And only four of the last eight were re-elected.  One of those resigned, one was impeached.  Another is leaving office with one of the lowest approval ratings in modern history.

So the election and inauguration of Barack Obama is a great moment in history.  And maybe his presidency will be too.  We hope so.  And wish him and the country well. The odds are not good.  His inauguration could very well be the high water mark of his life and his administration.

Even so, whatever happens, good or bad, the election and inauguration of Barack Obama is a singular success.  It is in the history books, a done deal.  It is a success story for the nation, the last chapter in a long journey.  It is an accomplishment, shared by all who voted for him and for all who voted against him on the issues, not motivated by race. 

America, late to free its slaves, and late to grant equal rights to its citizens – a story that has earned us shame throughout the world – has now leapfrogged everyone else.  Most of the world is still layered with social strata.  A Barack Obama could not now be elected in any of the Western European nations who have for so long despised us for our social struggles.  Now, the ball is suddenly in their court.  Our struggle is over.  American is finally free.

Here is a link to Doug’s recent appearance on Katie Couric’s prime time inaugural special on CBS.


Published by Doug Wead

Doug Wead is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book, Game of Thorns, is about the Trump-Clinton 2016 election. He served as an adviser to two American presidents and was a special assistant to the president in the George H.W. Bush White House.

8 thoughts on “Will Obama be a great president?

  1. Very insightful. When I was a kid it always seemed like Andrew Jackson was portrayed in a very bad light. I don’t know why that sticks out in my head, but it does.

    This is cliche but it’s true. The more I learn about history, the more I realize I don’t know much history. It’s sad because many of our paradigms are based on what we think we know of history.

    I’m guessing you mean Reagan was the only President who left with a favorable opinion.

    I wonder if any President will have a favorable opinion in the near future given that so many things have changed during the years of the last 8 Presidents.

    We went to a fiat currency and left the gold standard.
    We’ve grown the size of government drastically over that period of time.
    We have over-spent, over-borrowed and over-regulated.
    We have have given away many of our personal liberties.

    If President Obama plans to do more of the above, I can’t see how he could succeed. Hopefully he does succeed, but in order to succeed he would have to offend the majority of those who elected him. Then he might be a success in the sense of solving our country’s problems but his approval ratings might be low because of how he did it. Tough spot. A bit of a pickle.

  2. Marksstc is right. And thanks to his correction I ammended the blog above. In the original I had said that only three of the last eight presidents had been re-elected, missing Nixon’s 1972 landslide victory. But, of course, he was forced to resign so the point is still valid, that Mr. Obama will not face easy odds.

  3. “America, late to free its slaves, and late to grant equal rights to its citizens – a story that has earned us shame throughout the world – has now leapfrogged everyone else. Most of the world is still layered with social strata. A Barack Obama could not now be elected in any of the Western European nations who have for so long despised us for our social struggles. Now, the ball is suddenly in their court. Our struggle is over. American is finally free.”

    Yuck! That sounds like a guilt ridden lib talking there, not a conservative Republican.

    I never enslaved anyone nor have members of my family, so I feel NO responsibility for what happened to blacks in America up until 1863.

    No current living American should, either.

    And let’s not forget, Barry O. IS NOT BLACK! He is a Caucasian with a black father. It is accurate to label him as “mixed race,” but black? You’ve got to be kidding.

    A person’s race is defined through the mother’s bloodline.

  4. “We have have given away many of our personal liberties.”

    You Losertarians keep saying that, Raleyb, but you are never able to cite any really meaningful specifics.

    That’s right, you have been inconvenienced at the airport more often lately. Oh, poor you.

    I don’t recall what part of the Constitution states that you are guaranteed the right to a speedy check-in/out at the airport.

    Taxes? The Constitution states they have the authority to levy and collect taxes.

    Face it, your quality of life is still among the best in the world. Don’t like it here? Fine, move elsewhere and see how good you’ll have it.

  5. Please tell me why any Christian evangelical would worry about what’s happening in this country? isn’t your mythical supernatural Savior supposed to take care of you in times of trouble?

  6. @DavidBlack

    My savior takes care of me all the time. He gives me hope in this life and hope for eternity. Of course he can be anybodies savior who accepts him.

    One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord- that’s what the bible says. Of course the bible is just a fairytale much like all the other history we didn’t witness but believe to be true.

    We probably agree on about 85% of our political worldview, yet you like to focus on that 15% all the time. Let’s discuss some things we agree upon.

  7. I believe that your estimate is very far off. I’d put it at least at 50%.

    The thing is, I don’t need a savior. No one really does, it’s one big crock to control people. I have my own mind with the ability to lead my own destiny. What a shame weak minded people like you do. Imagine that, people too afraid to stare into the pit of some metaphorical hell on their own and resolving to prevail over what confronts them.

    That’s the mark of real and strong human being.

    When I’m dead, I’ll be worm food, so what? The cycle of life renews itself without the need for hocus pocus. The world turned for billions of years with no problem before the magicians disguised as do-gooders started figuring out some means to control the behavior of others, whether it was by worshipping the moon, sun, the stars, or some imaginary figures.

    Religious figures were really the first politicians. They were slick enough to sell the gullible a certain line of nonsense. Since a majority of people on this planet ARE gullible saps, their job was made very easy. To this day, the weak are always looking for something or someone to lead them by the nose and make them “feel better.” So much effort is wasted in this world pursuing the impossible quest of “feeling better.” It’s an illusion if people believe they have reached some mythic nirvana via external means, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, pills, church, or even politics.

    Witness the Ron Paulnuts campaign and you have a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about. Watch any televangelist’s TV program and you also get the same idea.

    I can’t make it any more clear than that.

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