Reagan, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama were all Presidents most people have strong opinions about. In fact, many have what appear to be viscerally strong views. Why is it that some can be so opposed and others so supportive (or even ambivalent for the same person?
I suspect these feeling begin with a general association with one party or the other. If the President is from your party, life is good.
Life long Republicans see even Nixon as a charming leader while finding Carter someone who could not find the front door. Democrats see Nixon as someone worse that a used car salesman, and Bush (“W”) as a lazy bumbling President who was malfeasant in office. In most cases they can supply antidotes which tend to support their opinion but seem to overlook any contrary evidence. Hmmm.
As time passes, most Americans forget why specifically they liked one President and not the other. Never the less, the more current Presidents are easier to define. The two most recent Presidents present perplexing cases.
George W Bush, at first blush. was the man you might want to share a beer with. He was witty, in great physical shape, and always sported a glint in his eye. He looked Presidential and with his wife, exuded the image of stability. That was one side of the coin.
“W”, however, seemed to have no interest in being the chief executive. Those tasks were delegated to aides and for “W”, follow up again was a subordinates task. The fox in the chicken coop. These characteristics would be of no interest if the Government as a whole kept to the middle ground. His 8 years would simply have been a place holder in history.
Unfortunately, “W” was surrounded by others who had “agendas”. Lead by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, Bush’s Presidency was hijacked. The list of dark stains on his Presidency is long. For example, championing weak Government standards leading to the inept Hurricane Katrina response and the near collapse of the entire economy following the banking collapse marked Bush’s years. Following 9/11 the assault on personal freedoms such as the Patriot Act, enhanced interrogation, Guantanamo Detention Facility, and the start of two unfunded wars began. For all these events, Bush was savagely blamed, yet they all resulted from the wishes of others.
I am convinced that Bush would have been far more content with 8 years of no controversy and instead, lots of formal dinners and picture taking. Bush, however, having been number one was responsible even though he was not the originator or driver.
Many Republicans also had enough of Bush and the GOP. So in 2008, Barack Obama was elected. This support was short lived.
Amazingly from day one, there appeared a cadres of anti-Obama voices. If Obama announced support for any type of legislation, this group decried the move and predicted the loss of America’s greatness. This is particularly confusing because measures like the Affordable Care Act were the children of Republican think tanks. Hmmm.
Obama’s years are not complete. There are still events which might shape History’s opinion more positively or negatively. Never the less, there are some differences which seem clearly visible already.
President Obama wants to be President and chief executive. On almost all major legislation or policy, Obama has formed his own opinion and is only swayed by the power of his subordinates’ convincing arguments. President Obama is in the game all the time.
Many of the President’s calls, however, have been clouded by poor implementation and/or communications. Obama wants to direct his staff but seems poor at picking key subordinates and unskilled at getting subordinates to perform outstandingly (working long hours does not count). As a consequence, health care reform, minimizing the detrimental impact of growing uneven income distribution, creating jobs, and finding the optimum balance of fiscal and monetary policy have gone no where during President Obama’s years.
It is true the Affordable Care Act passed in 2009, and compared to what preceded it, ACA was a worthy reform. Yet, poor implementation and communications has muddied the public opinion waters. As visceral as the opinion of many were about the invasion and occupation of Iraq, that many or more seem against ACA.
And what is even more surprising, most Americans were not impacted by Iraq (no new taxes and volunteer Army). With ACA, most Americans receive their healthcare insurance through their employer or Medicare, and you bet, they are not impacted either. Why these strong reactions?
George W Bush, when asked how he thought history would judge his Presidency, “W” replied, “history is a long time”.
I guess it just does not matter what people “prejudicially” think. There is virtually no way to know the facts nor all the positions of a President’s advisors. As long as our views are tied to words on paper, and not guns on the street, I think we can justifiably feel that America still has a workable form of government.
Like with children, however, we would do better if we criticized the behavior and not the child. A President’s results are fair game for criticism while the President’s positions are just part of a process.