In the comments of a recent post a frequent commenter assigned a letter grade to President Obama:
Obama is a B or B minus president. He’s neither a genius nor a fool. He’s neither a saint nor a great sinner. He’s a guy handed a mess who has done a decent if uninspired job of cleaning it up.
At first blush I thought that was fair but the more I thought about it the more confused I became. Let me try to explain why.
In the area of foreign policy I disagree with practically everything the Obama Administration has done. That’s no particular distinction—I’ve had much the same opinion of the George W. Bush Administration, the Clinton Administration, and the George H. W. Bush. Although I never voted for the man, largely on foreign policy grounds, I thought that Reagan did some things right and others terribly wrong. I thought that Jimmy Carter was the worst president from a foreign policy standpoint of any in my lifetime.
To give the Obama Administration more than a C on foreign policy it seems to me that you must:
- Think that without the president’s influence we would still be in Iraq, the SOFA notwithstanding (I don’t)
- Think that the Afghan “surge” was the right thing to do and that we should still have as many troops there as we do (I don’t)
- Think that providing air support to the Libyan rebels was the right thing to do (I don’t)
- Think that killing Osama bin Laden was strategically important (I don’t)
just to scratch the surface. There’s one aspect of the president’s foreign policy I can endorse wholeheartedly: he’s not John McCain. That’s worth a C, at least.
To give the Obama Administration more than a C on domestic policy it seems to me that you must:
- Think that the administration’s policies saved the financial system. (I don’t)
- Think that the administration’s handling of GM was correct and will enable the company to survive in the long term (I don’t)
- Think that allowing the “Bush tax cuts” to stand in 2010 was the right thing to do while letting them expire in 2012 was the right thing to do (I don’t see how that circle can be squared).
- Think that the ARRA ended the recession despite so little of the money that had been appropriated had been spent by the time the recession ended. Sort of an “Immaculate Conception” kind of thing.
- Think that the “animal spirits” produced by the Obama Administration was enough to end the recession but there was nothing that could be done to produce a more robust recovery.
- Think that the PPACA will pave the way for a better, more affordable healthcare system (I don’t). After all, even its supporters contend that it’s just a start.
What confuses me in all of this is how you can give President Obama a B or B- without giving President Bush a very similar grade—with the exception of the PPACA (“healthcare reform”) their policies have been remarkably similar.
I’ve realized that I can’t assign a letter grade to President Obama’s presidency. I just don’t know enough. So much is simply a matter of belief. The best I can muster is an Incomplete.