Friday, August 13, 2010

Obama "worst president ever?" Sorry, Ben Quayle, but no.

Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, is running for Congress in the state of Arizona. In an attempt to gain acceptance from conservative constituents in a state as crazy-right-wing as Arizona, Quayle has come out with a new campaign ad designed to appeal to a growing radical conservative base.

In the ad, Quayle stares straight into the camera and calls Barack Obama the “worst president in history.”

We shouldn’t be surprised by anything at this point from the right. From the unfounded belief in “death panels” in the health insurance reform debate, to the absurd notion that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., the fringe right has never once held back when it comes to trying to discredit the commander-in-chief, no matter how crazy the assertion they make is. Unfortunately, more and more of these “activists” are becoming leaders of the GOP, winning in important primary challenges and causing the Republican Party to move further right in order to appease them.

The assertion made by Quayle sticks out for two reasons: first, it’s absurd that, in less than two years, a president that has seen more obstruction than any other president from an oppositional party, would even be able to be the worst president ever.

And second, there have been plenty worse presidents that Barack Obama, who frankly hasn’t done anything to warrant the label of “worst president” himself.

Here’s a short list I can come up with off the top of my head.

John Adams and his allies in Congress passed the Sedition Act, which made it illegal to say or publish unkind words about the federal government. Andrew Jackson relocated the Cherokee Indians, despite a Supreme Court ruling and the rule of law, killing thousands in the Trail of Tears and the subsequent relocation. Herbert Hoover refused to assist those in need following the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt imprisoned an entire race of people on the west coast. Richard Nixon conducted a secret war in Cambodia and planted “wires” in the Democratic Party’s campaign offices. The Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran in order to fund a war in Central America. Bill Clinton had an illicit affair in the Oval Office. George W. Bush started a war based on mistruths, false pretenses, and lies, while ignoring another war that was based on a legitimate mission.

Some of these presidents did amazing things, to be sure. Their “misdeeds” shouldn’t overshadow the important accomplishments, though at the same time their “greatness” shouldn’t overshadow their ill deeds as well. Still, when you consider the terrible atrocities that some presidents in the history of our nation have committed, and when you look at Barack Obama and consider what he has done thus far, the idea that he is the “worst president ever” seems a little loony.

This is a man whose “misdeeds” include a bailout to the auto industry, a bailout that that very industry is now paying back; who helped pass a reformation of how health insurance companies can cover patients, with tax rebates to those who can’t afford to purchase insurance on their own and an eventual prohibition of “pre-existing conditions” as a precursor to denying a patient coverage; a man who helped reform Wall Street, who created a special position that will oversee the industry of stock-trading among those rich elitists who gamble with the lives of working men and women in America; who helped women in the workplace strive for that all-important goal of “equal pay for equal work,” allowing women to sue their employers if it is found out they have been paying less than their equal worth over years of dedication towards a company; who has provided a plan for a steady withdrawal of troops in the war in Afghanistan; who has appeased even the conservative base by providing a larger presence than any conservative president ever has of U.S. border guards between the Mexican border with the United States; and who has improved relations between our country and others throughout the world.

If Ben Quayle is to include Barack Obama in the list of “worst presidents ever,” he’ll have a tough time defining under what criterion Obama fits that moniker. Because frankly, Obama has done a lot more good than bad; and what “bad” he has done is a matter of opinion, a normative belief that doesn’t carry over into empirical observations made by mainstream voters.

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