BuzzFeed‘s Ben Smith is just one of many journalists ready to canonize President Obama as one of the greatest presidents today despite the fact that Obama hasn’t even completed a single week of his second term. Smith writes:
Now we are in Reagan territory, and in the hall of statues in the American imagination that includes, this century, probably only FDR and maybe JFK and Teddy besides. Obama’s best interpreter, Andrew Sullivan, made that case last fall: “If Obama wins, to put it bluntly, he will become the Democrats’ Reagan. The narrative writes itself. He will emerge as an iconic figure who struggled through a recession and a terrorized world, reshaping the economy within it, passing universal health care, strafing the ranks of al-Qaeda, presiding over a civil-rights revolution, and then enjoying the fruits of the recovery.”
I see a few problems with this script. First, as recent incidents in Mali, Algeria, and Benghazi have shown, al-Qaeda is not nearly as weak as Obama and Sullivan would like you to believe. The Soviet Union collapsed shortly after Reagan left office. It appears al-Qaeda will survive long past Obama.
Second, it is still too early judge the Obama recovery. But unless some type of economic miracle begins soon, Obama’s economic record after eight years in office will look down right pathetic next to the job and GDP growth that both Reagan and Clinton presided over.
Finally, neither Reagan nor Clinton was ever associated with a single piece of legislation as divisive or perilous as Obamacare. And while Obama does have four more years to nurse Obamacare into a self-sustaining institution, the odds still look stacked against him. A majority of states are still refusing to set up health care exchanges and no one has any idea how Obama’s HHS will get them up and running by the deadline. Contrary to Obama’s promise of lower insurance premiums, premiums are skyrocketing across the country and they are rising the fastest in states like California that are fully cooperating with implementation. Key gimmicks used to make Obama look deficit neutral in the early years have already been exposed as total frauds, and the cost of the insurance subsidies are set to spiral out of control.
And don’t forget that as soon as Obama leaves office Obamacare will essentially be an orphan. The right hates it for obvious reasons (it is a government takeover of health care, it has Obama’s name attached, etc.) but many on the left never really wanted it either. The base of the Democratic party never trusted the central role insurance companies play in Obamacare and many of them still pine for a fully government-run single payer health care system. The current Obamacare framework will have to fail before they can push for further government control.
So take a step back and what will Obama have really accomplished? A blah-economy, with unacceptable unemployment, stagnant growth and rising income inequality; a resurgent al-Qaeda, and a signature domestic accomplishment already on life-support.
If that is greatness, our country is truly in trouble.