Robert Kahne: Rebuttal #1
[Artur Davis’ Provocation]
I think it’s time to throw a bit of kerosene into this debate and see what catches on fire.
I’ve only been alive for a quarter century–a long enough time to see a mere five presidencies. All five of the men who have held the highest office in the United States since my birth have their detractors, but I believe there exists one President who will be held in the highest esteem by future generations; as well as the man I believe to have held the office with the most courage, created the most positive change, and wielded greatest political acumen. That man is the current President: Barack Obama.
With a political science major, you can pick apart nuanced political issues.
It is extremely difficult to abstract from the present when it comes to judging Presidents. Consider the cases of men like James K. Polk and Harry S Truman: it took our country decades in order to give these men the accolades they deserved. However, as a student of policy and of political science, I believe President Obama will go down in history as one of our greatest Presidents regardless of the outcome of the election in November.
Presidents are judged first and foremost by their policies–and when President Obama is placed next to the other men who have been President in my lifetime, he has done the most good. In terms of domestic policy, the President’s most lasting legacy will likely be his healthcare reform law. While this law is not without is shortcomings, it will improve access to healthcare for millions of Americans. While the transformation will be difficult, and while the outcome of the law will not be perfect (by a long shot), I believe that when we look back on our previous system–which shut out 35 million of the most vulnerable Americans–we will shudder and wonder how we let that go on for so long. The second domestic item which will be viewed historically will be his handling of the massive economic crisis that emerged in the months before he came to office. I believe future generations will look back on the President’s many attempts to fix this problem (the payroll tax cut, jobs bill, underwater mortgage reform, etc) which have been thwarted by Congress in the same way that the current generation views the portions of the New Deal which were struck down by the Supreme Court–a President desperately trying to help those in need and a short-sided opposition.
In terms of foreign policy, President Obama has not always followed policies which I favor, but his policies have been marked by success in the same forums where his predecessor has failed. President Obama’s military killed Osama Bin Laden. Under the current Commander-in-chief, the American military has had an impossibly graceful exit from Iraq. While our troops continue to wallow in Afghanistan, we have seen a significant drawdown in the number of soldiers who serve there. When crisis arrived in Libya, President Obama coined the policy of “leading from behind,” which insulated the United States from European criticism of being the “world’s police” while ensuring our principles of democracy and freedom are allowed to spread throughout the world. This policy is being tested as we speak in Syria, and while the situation troubles me, I am infinitely more confident in Mr. Obama’s ability to handle this crisis than I was when President Bush was in charge.
Mr. Obama’s policies have been several steps more moderate than President Clinton. While this may cause many liberals like me to believe that President Clinton was a better President, I believe President Obama pursued the policies he did because of an honest adherence to his principle of a post-partisan society and an adept reading of his chances of passing legislation through our current Congress. I have believed and continue to believe in this man’s greatness, and it pains me to think about how much better off our country would be if we had a better Congress.
It is clear to me that President Obama has been the greatest President of the past 25 years–he has achieved so much, and has done so without any major scandal. I can’t wait to see what he achieves in the next five years.