In what I can only describe as fanfiction that borders on the erotic, Jim Nelson of GQ Magazine, a self-proclaimed Clinton guy, decides that Barack Obama will be “inducted into the league of great presidents” because of how well he did as president.
I cannot even begin to describe just how little substance there is to the piece except to say that it is remarkable similar to Obama’s presidency in that regard.
The column is a mix of historical references, only one of which – comparing Donald Trump to Herbert Hoover – actually fits. The evidence used to describe Obama as a candidate for one of the greatest presidents ever is… not “non-existent” so much as it is “non-relevant.”
What makes Obama great? Well, for one thing, the fact that he was charismatic:
Barack Obama will long be revered because he’s charismatic, presided over an economic revival, and changed and elevated the view of the presidency. He’s simply bigger than Bill.
Elevated the view of the presidency? Sure, for roughly half the country. The other half, he repeatedly spoke down to, dismissed, and ultimately completely overlooked as a direct threat to his own party.
The article has also decided that Obama was the “adult in the room” when the national mood was so sour and divisive…
Obama has a few other edges in the long haul of history, beyond specific hurrah moments like Obamacare, rescuing the economy, and making America way more bi-curious. Being the first black president of course secures a certain legacy. But what now feels distinctly possible is that, just as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, over time he may be judged less for the color of his skin than for the content of his character. That character came across every time haters or Trumpers or birthers tried to pull him down into the mud or question his American-ness. He just flew above it all. And, luckily, he took most of us with him. He was the Leader not only of our country but of our mood and disposition, which is harder to rule. At a time when we became more polarized, our discourse pettier and more poisoned, Obama always came across as the Adult in the Room, the one we wanted to be and follow.
…which is incredibly hilarious given that his first response to critique from Republicans was “I won” followed by a victory dance and flipping the bird to Republicans in Washington. He steadfastly referred to Republicans and conservatives as “the enemy,” dismissed them as people who bitterly cling to their guns and bibles, insulted and mocked Fox News and other conservative media, and decided to lecture the American public on numerous occasions when he didn’t get his way.
Nelson’s column notably doesn’t focus on Obamacare, which was a heavily flawed policy that was bound to be destroyed the next time a Republican came around to do it. It doesn’t count as part of a legacy if it gets defeated. Unless, of course, the legacy is that of a man who wanted nothing to do with Republicans and forced a law through Congress without a single Republican vote.
Or, maybe we want his legacy to be like that of another notable Democrat, Andrew Jackson. He did, after all, do everything within his power to increase his power and that of the Office of the President. The legacy he leaves with him is that he gives that power to Donald Trump, which I am sure was an honest mistake on his part.
One of the greatest? No. If anything, he was one of the worst. No notable accomplishments, leaving a nation more divided than ever, and certainly no great strides in American prosperity. He won’t, of course, be labeled as one of the worst. Simply by virtue of being black, he is protected from historians’ critiques.