CNN’s Candy Crowley tried to spin Obama as an unpopular president coming down the homestretch of his second term, but she was quickly straightened out by a panel of historians who discussed the fact that the president still has plenty of juice left.
CROWLEY: So, he said in jest, sort of. Here is a man who, for six years, has made no secret about the fact that he doesn’t like either the rhythms or the rituals of Washington, D.C. So, he has two years left. Can a man who doesn’t like the rituals or the rhythms of Washington, D.C., make good on those last two years? Put it first – put it into history for me. Who has made good?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: A lot of presidents made good on their second term when you think about. Look at Ronald Reagan had the Iran-contra problem, but then he was able to do some incredible diplomacy with Mikhail Gorbachev, helping to end the cold war in its last years. I mean, Bill Clinton, his second term I was able to keep driving
on that idea of getting a budget surplus, getting rid of our deficit and by the end of his term, he wasn’t (ph) very popular, Al Gore wanted to be seen with him but nevertheless he had an accomplishment there.
So, in foreign affairs, it’s wide open and then you always have executive power, and you’ve seen a president now using the Clean Air Act of 1970, the provisions in it, to lay down executive orders on climate change, on stopping coal emissions or reducing them. So, there’s an environmental legacy and they all sign these big national monuments on their way out. Greater (ph) (INAUDIBLE) –
CROWLEY: Like post offices on a much higher level, right?
BRINKLEY: Yes. I mean, it’s still (INAUDIBLE) we just saw with the executive order on immigration, he still has a lot of juice left in him.
And Karen, what does he care whether — this is a man in his, percentage wise, in the 43, 44, 45 percent. Does he care about that or just take the executive order route and moving on?
KAREN TUMULTY, WASHINGTON POST, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think he is very much looking toward his legacy at this point.
He came to Washington to sort of change the way it worked. I think he’s given up on that idea. So yes, he’s going to use his executive power. It’s a – it’s going to be a gigantic job just to implement the laws that passed in the first couple years of his term.
And finally you talk to people at the White House and they say that it is very important to the president before he leaves office to use the bully pulpit to sort of change the terms of engagement, so that no future presidential candidate could ever run as opposing gay marriage or as opposed immigration reform. Essentially he wants to leave behind a national conversation that has changed because he was here.
CROWLEY: Richard Norton Smith?
RICHARD NORTON SMITH, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: That’s a lot harder to do. I would agree with Karen. In effect, he created his legacy early. He created his legacy with the Health Care Act, and now he’s going to make sure that it is defended, well-defended and almost invulnerable to the next president, whoever it might be.
That said, you know, we’re not talking about our fathers, let alone our grandfather’s presidency. This is a dynamic office. This is not T.R.’s bully pulpit or FDR’s fireside chats. In many ways a president’s — Harry Truman was the first president to pardon a White House turkey and I guarantee — and he went out of office with a whole lot lower popular approval ratings than this president has at the moment, but in the end it doesn’t matter what the popular approval rating is on the last day in office because guess what? We are the folks who are going to be the ultimate electoral jury…
SMITH: …the historians who decided that Harry Truman wasn’t near (ph) a (ph) great president.
CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) George H. W. Bush about that, too, out of office with that.
Candy Crowley’s comments were another example of Beltway media running down President Obama because he doesn’t like Washington. Chuck Todd wrote a book that is based around the premise that Obama is not a good president because he never played the games that the press that cover the president require in order to have their egos properly soothed.
It isn’t that Obama hasn’t done anything. If anything, the president has been a victim of his own early successes in office. As Rachel Maddow pointed out nearly four years ago, President Obama accomplished 85% of his entire first-term agenda in two years.
In 2010, Maddow listed what the president had done in his first two years, “The fair pay act for women, expanding children’s health insurance, new hate crimes legislation they said could not be done, tobacco regulation, credit card reform, student loan reform, the stimulus — which in addition to helping pull this country back from the brink of a great depression, was also the largest tax cut ever, the largest investment in clean energy ever, the largest investment in education in our country ever. There was also a little thing you may have heard of called health reform. Also, Wall Street reform, the improvements to the new G.I. Bill, the most expansive food SAFETY BILL SINCE THE 1930s. And tomorrow, President Obama will officially sign a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The idea that Barack Obama has not been a successful president is myth that was created by his Republican opponents, and embraced by a bitter mainstream media.
This president has been very successful, and history will regard his accomplishments kindly even if the media will never give him his fair due.