Despite having failed to stop let alone reverse the rising of the seas, Barack Obama has made Newsweek’s newest ten best presidents list, which gives readers a top ten of the chief executives since 1900. Newsweek, whose list unsurprisingly is dominated by liberal Democrats, gave this justification for selecting Obama in a caption in a photo slide:
Picking a sitting president in a tally of the best is tricky – history hasn’t had time to put things in a more sober context. But the historic election of America’s first black president cannot be ignored. That a man whose ancestors included a slave could become the leader of a nation founded to some extent in slavery is as much an achievement for the country as it is a marker for Obama himself. Whether Obama stays or goes, his standing, as a fundamentally groundbreaking president will remain.
So, Obama deserves to be on the list simply because he’s black?! Has affirmative action percolated into historical analysis? After all, such an honorable mention needs “a more sober context” with the passage of time to make an accurate and honest assessment. Historians often talk about "what could have been" if a former head of state had lived. You see this a lot with JFK, who is also on the list, and his 1000 daylong administration.
Of course, JFK steered the world away from nuclear disaster in October of 1962, proposed an across the board tax cut, and pushed our scientific community to engineer a mission to the moon. By contrast, Barack Obama’s increased the national debt by $5 trillion, kept unemployment above 8 percent for over 40 consecutive months, and presided over the demise of the U.S. space shuttle program.
Newsweek staffers are making the rounds to promote the list. Contributing editor Sir Harold Evans -- he's also the husband for Newsweek's editor Tina Brown -- appeared on today's Jansing & Co. program on MSNBC, where he said that the historians who formulated the list were looking for "active and effective" presidents who "enhanced" the ideal of what it is to be American.
Not surprisingly, government-increasing liberal Democrats like FDR and LBJ, as well as slightly more moderate big government Democrats like Truman and Clinton dominate the list.
Asked about why the list is predominantly Democratic in nature, Evans insisted that the Republicans in the 20th century were by and large uninspiring if not corrupt. In the process, he trashed free-market conservative Calvin Coolidge -- who presided over an economic boom, low unemployment, and the reduction of the national debt -- as unimaginative.
If by lacking imagination, Evans means a mind that dreamed up new bureaucracies and larger federal government, he's correct. But the results speak for themselves, even if they don't excite historians.