President Obama, after just nine months in office, is being actively compared by different commentators and scholars to several former Presidents, who happen to be vastly different. So it all depends on one’s ideological bent as to which comparison makes the most sense.
Obama has been compared to Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton! What an interesting list this is, and based on differing perceptions.
Obama is FDR to some, because of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, and his willingness to experiment and try anything, as well as his inclination to create more government intervention in the economy, ability to communicate with the public, his strong charismatic personality, and strong ideological attacks beginning in the first year and causing the President to be called contradictory “isms”!
Obama is called John F. Kennedy because he is young, charismatic, has great communications abilities, is considered inexperienced for his position by critics, is a leader who overcame a barrier not accomplished earlier (religion or race), and faced strong foreign policy challenges immediately upon taking office.
Obama is Lyndon B. Johnson in that he is seeking to accomplish a tremendous amount of legislation as soon as possible, sees FDR as a model, and faces a major decision early on over escalation of a foreign intervention.
Obama is Richard Nixon in that he is very bright as Nixon was, is attacking his media critics in a strong fashion, and also is involved in tough decisions on escalation of a foreign intervention.
Obama is Jimmy Carter in that he is seen also as inexperienced, overly idealistic and visionary, wants to lessen the possibility of war by pursuing every avenue toward peace, and prefers negotiations over confrontation, and had a similar background in the state senate before seeking higher office.
Obama is Ronald Reagan in that he is personally popular, had to deal with a serious economic downturn, often had his policies disliked even with a high personal rating, and had a reputation as a “Great Communicator”.
Obama is Bill Clinton in that both were young, had desire to promote health care reform, had great ability as communicators, and Obama has used a lot of “Clintonites” in his administration, including Hillary Clinton, the First Lady under her husband’s administration.
These comparisons are, of course, fascinating, but at the same time, there are ways that Obama can be shown to be DIFFERENT than any and all of these predecessors.
The truth is, it is really too early to know how Obama will be rated in history, or compared ultimately to his predecessors, both those mentioned above, and the others who, each in their own way, made positive or negative contributions to the office of the Presidency.
But the beginning of rating Obama is deeply engaged already!