How Obama Really Ranked Presidents

Right wingers, perhaps realizing they cannot take on Obama if they stick to facts, rely upon a large variety of distortions. There’s the ridiculous claims that he’s a Muslim, a socialist, and that he palls around with terrorists. Twisting statements, even going as far as editing audio or video, is another common right wing tactic. They will even claim they are just using their opponent’s own words against them, ignoring how they have altered them. The latest example is the claim which has become common in right wing (as well as some far left) blogs that Obama claimed in unaired portions of his interview with Sixty Minutes that he is the fourth greatest president of all time. Steve Benen reviewed the actual interview to show Obama did not actually say this. Here is what Obama really said:

“The issue here is not going be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Obama is placing Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln ahead of the others and then places some portions of his record as competitive with the others. He is correct on this point. As Steve wrote:

In his first two years, this president helped pull the economy back from a depression, rescued the American auto industry, passed a health care reform law 100 years in the making, signed Wall Street reform, DADT repeal, the woefully under-appreciated student loan reform, New START, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the biggest overhaul of our food-safety laws in 70 years, new regulation of the credit card industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, net neutrality, the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, and health care for 9/11 rescue workers, among other things. (That’s just his first two years. In his third, Obama also ordered the strike that killed bin Laden and helped oust Gadhafi in Libya.)

Love Obama or hate him, how many presidents have put together records like that? Putting aside the nonsense about Obama ranking himself, which obviously didn’t happen, weren’t his comments about accomplishments entirely accurate?

Obama didn’t really say what his detractors claim, but even if he did there would be a strong argument in his favor. Without trying to rank different presidents at different times and in different situations, there is no question that Obama’s legislative and foreign policy achievements are competitive with most of his predecessors.

Realistically I doubt that any president today can accomplish enough to go down in history as fourth best considering both the terrible situation he inherited, the degree to which Republicans are trying to obstruct economic recovery for political gain, the manner in which Republicans are forcing virtually everything to obtain sixty votes in the Senate, and the strength of the right wing’s propaganda machine.


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