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Friday, June 25, 2010

A Transformative Presidency?

Over at Politicalwire, Taegan Goddard writes
Now that Democrats have agreed on a Wall Street reform bill, President Obama is set to have an incredible year of accomplishments. He's already signed major health care reforms into law and is more than likely to have energy/climate change legislation on his desk later this year. Not since FDR has a president done so much to transform the country.
I'm sorry, but as a professor of political science I find the suggestion that Barack Obama has done more to transform the country than any president since FDR to be a ridiculous statement to make 18 months into his presidency - it's also simply wrong.

I invite everyone to consider just one year in the presidency of Lyndon Johnson - 1965:
all were accomplished in one year....

Want to include 1964?
Lyndon Johnson transformed America, and every president since Johnson has been living in the house that he built. Barack Obama has spent the last 18 months doing some remodeling - but he has not "transformed" anything. In no way could any reasonable person compare the half-measure health and financial reforms that have passed this year with the transformative policies of FDR or Lyndon Johnson. To stretch a metaphor, FDR built a modest one-story house of American Public Policy. Lyndon Johnson modernized the first floor, added a second floor, and a two car garage - and invited millions of previously excluded American to come on in. Barack Obama has repainted, added new curtains, and a small deck in the back yard. It looks nice, but hasn't changed much.

Those on the Left that are attempting to overstate President Obama's accomplishments are no more credible than those on the Right who are trying to portray him as a threat to Democracy. So far Obama has been as successful as many recent presidents, but has been no more "transformative" than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Might Obama be a transformative president? Certainly, but he has not been one yet. And most president are not.