Commentary: Why Obama May Be the Best President Since WWII

Keith Boykin claps back at Obama's recent poll numbers.

I woke up this morning to a disturbingly silly headline. President Obama is the worst president since World War II, according to a plurality of voters in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

When you look beneath the numbers, it's not what it looks like. Only about 33 percent of those polled called Obama the worst president, but that number roughly mirrors the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans, a group which has tried to sabotage, block, sue and impeach the president in recent years.

As the Washington Post's Philip Bump reports today, the new poll numbers do seem to reflect some concerns about health care and the economy among young people and among those under 50. But there's also something else here, something closer to total hatred of the president by Fox News-viewing conservative Republicans over 50. And the passion of their venom skews everything.

So for the moment, forget what the polls say. The facts tell the real story of the Obama presidency, and the facts are damn good, especially compared to his predecessor.

Under President Obama, the unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent in 2009 to 6.3 percent today. Under George W. Bush, on the other hand, the unemployment rate rose from 4.2 percent to 7.8 percent.

Under President Obama, the U.S. economy is gaining 200,000 jobs a month. When Bush left office, however, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month.

Under President Obama, at least 24 million people have gotten health insurance. The rate of uninsured has declined from 18 percent to 13.4 percent and the rate for Blacks has dropped dramatically from 20.9 percent to 14.7 percent. And despite all the exaggerated GOP claims that Obamacare would be a "job killer," we've actually added more than 9 million new private sector jobs since the president signed the law.

Under President Obama, businesses are also booming again. In the first few weeks of his presidency, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was sitting at 6547. Today it's close to 17,000, a 10,000 point increase in five years! And corporate profits hit an all-time record high just last year.

Don't forget Obama inherited from Bush a deeply divided country, engaged in two wars, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with banks collapsing, housing prices plummeting and the domestic auto industry on the verge of extinction.

President Obama ended the war in Iraq, drew down troops in Afghanistan, captured Osama Bin Laden, averted a second depression, helped to rescue the financial sector, stabilized home prices and saved more than a million jobs in the auto industry.

At the same time, he enacted the most sweeping health care reform legislation in 50 years, something Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton couldn't do, and which Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes never wanted to do.

Compared to Bill Clinton, Obama also stacks up well.

Clinton tried to pass a $19.5 billion stimulus bill in Congress in his first year in office in 1993. He failed. But President Obama, on the other hand, was able to push through a much larger $800 billion stimulus in his first year in office, which economists say created nearly 3 million jobs.

Clinton tried mightily to pass comprehensive health care reform in his second year in office. Again he came up empty. Of course, President Obama succeeded. 

And Clinton also couldn't overcome the military's strong opposition to lifting the ban on gays in the military. President Obama did it for him.

In reality, today's headline-grabbing poll says less about President Obama and more about our short-term memory as a nation.

Harry Truman was deeply unpopular when he left office.

Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, presided over an economy where the top tax rate exceeded 90 percent compared to 39.6 percent under Obama.

LBJ, who signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act 50 years ago today, lost momentum as he got mired in the Vietnam War.

Richard Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandal.

Unelected Gerald Ford, who succeeded Nixon, was quickly booted out of office in 1976.

Jimmy Carter got stuck in twin crises of the Iran hostage drama and rising interest rates and inflation at home.

And Ronald Reagan was probably the worst. Reagan tripled the nation's debt, slashed essential social programs for the poor and middle-class, engaged with brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, negotiated with terrorists in the Middle East, sold arms to Iran, sent weapons to Afghanistan and left a sobering legacy in domestic policy and foreign policy we're still paying for today.

The first George Bush broke his "read my lips" vow not to raise taxes and lost his base. The second Bush, who came into office by the deciding vote of his father's handpicked Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, then cut taxes without paying for it and doubled the national debt.

In comparison to these other guys, President Obama doesn't look so bad. Sure, he's made his share of mistakes, and I can't say I agree with every decision he's made. But as a student of history, as an unapologetic liberal, as an African-American, as a gay man, as a supporter of equal rights for women and as someone who knows what it's like to lose a job and live without health insurance, I'd say President Obama has done more good for this country than any president before him.

And for all the hysterical right-wingers who claim to speak for the American people, remember Obama is actually the first president in more than five decades to win at least 51 percent of the national popular vote in two consecutive elections. Even "the great" Ronald Reagan couldn't do that.
Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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