March 12, 2013
Barack Obama (6) v. Jimmy Carter (11)
Another matchup of deeply flawed presidents presents itself here between two Democrats, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. Carter is widely regarded as one of the very worst presidents of all time, but Barack Obama despite and perhaps because of the refraction caused by a lack of historical perspective, is regarded by at least 51% of the population as a pretty good president. The rest of America, not so much.
Carter tried a little too hard. James David Barber of Duke’s book “Presidential Character” analyzed the modern presidents based on their character traits. Carter reportedly invited Barber to the White House and spent the day carefully scripting his actions so as to produce what he deemed a positive analysis in the next edition of Barber’s book. He was not fooled.
Jimmy Carter, a lowly 11 seed in our tournament, is most known for writing thousands of useless cookbooks and self-help guides once he left office in shame after one term in 1981. During his presidency, he is most known for his platform for human rights. Largely, this was an accident of circumstance stemming from his campaign which polled well when he was seeking the Democratic nomination and needed to woo disparate parts of the Democratic Party to unify behind him. Read the rest of this entry »
March 10, 2013
In the spirit of March Madness, I’ve begun to work on a series (that will take as long as it needs to) of blog posts for a presidential bracket. I think it is a fun way to look at some of the lesser known attributes of some of our Chief Executives, to think about what makes a good president, and to perhaps rethink some of our own prejudices and notions about America’s political history. 44 presidents (including two Grover Clevelands) will compete in four different regions for the title of best president of all time. The selection committee has set the field, divided into four regions (East Wing, West Wing, Oval Office and Rose Garden Regions) and the participants will compete based on several criteria:
- Problems that the president faced internationally or domestically and how he dealt with them.
- Problems that he caused internationally or domestically and how he dealt with them.
- How the president affected the prestige of the office or conducted himself.
- Short term positive or negative effects of the presidency.
- Long term positive or negative effects of the presidency.
- How did the president upheld the oath of office?
- How did he use presidential power?
- How the president changed or shaped the presidency–was he shaped by events or did he control the narrative?
Fill out your brackets, argue about it with your friends and family, and then strap yourself in for this series. We will start the tournament off with the Rose Garden Region’s play-in games. Read the rest of this entry »
May 25, 2010
A movie derived from Barack Obama's presidency is not one I care to see. How about you?
Michael Douglas’ portrayal of president Andrew Shepherd in the 1995 romantic-comedy The American President fully encapsulated the distracted and whimsical state of presidential politics that real-life president Bill Clinton practiced at that time. This romanticized version of the American presidency was rooted in some order of truth—the presidency in the Nineties was all about a womanizing megalomaniac who was too preoccupied by his personal dalliances to meddle with policy. That is, policy beyond that which would effect his approval rating. Leo Solomon, played by John Mahoney, perfectly embodied the political meme of the day with his shallow line: “politics is perception.” Derivative? Yeah, it was. But that was what it took for president Bill Clinton to sustain his personal brothel at 1600 Pennsylvania—surviving only through his penchant for buoying his poll numbers with staged walks on the beach and puffing out his lower lip.
So what would a movie about the Obama Administration be like? Well… Read the rest of this entry »
June 22, 2009
In November of 2008, Americans in record numbers voted for dubious terms such as “hope” and “change.” In doing so, we’re told, those who elected Barack Obama as the 43rd president of the United States (Grover Cleveland served twice—should we really count that as two?) declared eight years under George W. Bush an utter failure. But was it? What if we were to ask ourselves that infamous question from the Ghost of Elections Past: “Am I better off today than I was eight years ago?”
When Bill Clinton took the walk of shame in 2001, most Americans didn’t have a cell phone. Today, not only does every family have one, but nearly every grade schooler has a cellular appendage, and our mobile phones are now used to browse the Internet, play movies, and for your teen to send risqué pictures of his girlfriend to the entire senior class. When the dust had finally settled from Al Gore’s post-recount Ben & Jerry’s binge, most Americans’ web access consisted of a shrieking dial tone connecting them to something called Geocities.com or Yahoo.com. Today, we connect wirelessly to Google, Facebook, Youtube, and we twit at an alarming rate. Read the rest of this entry »