Lately, I’ve noticed a slew of articles in magazines, newspapers, and on the non-peer reviewed internets that make arguments as to how Obama fits into the American Pantheon of former Presidents. Some (usually progressives drunk on hopium or fearful conservatives) argue that he is the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (Interestingly, most of those stories date to last fall and winter–few are making the argument that his performance in 2009 is worthy of FDR now.) Others (usually fearful progressives or gleeful conservatives) argue that he is the premature reincarnation of Jimmy Carter. In the recent battle over how precisely the U.S. government will demand that citizens subsidize the private, for-profit health insurance industry and to what extent the U.S. will continue its occupation of Afghanistan, we’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Lyndon Johnson–again, depending on your political perspective, conservatives warn darkly that Obama must not be permitted to be as effective as LBJ, whereas progressives and liberals are begging please! please! Mr. President, be just like LBJ on domestic issues, but please avoid him on foreign policy!
For a more exotic argument, see Tim Murphy’s argument for Obama to be more like “the Napoleon of the West,” James K. Polk (srsly? In a so-called “progressive” monthly? Since when is throwing Indians and Latinos under the bus a “progressive” value? I get that it’s a Democratic value, of course, at least since the days of Thomas Jefferson and Andy Jackson!) I wrote last summer about Kevin Baker’s comparison of Obama to Herbert Hoover, and recently, it’s become fashionable to proclaim that Obama is George W. Bush’s third term on left blogs that are critical of Obama’s performance so far. As I delight in reminding you, it’s been clear to me since the 2008 primaries that Obama would govern much like Bill Clinton–although why he does so with substantial Democratic congressional majorities (instead of the Republican congresses that Clinton faced for 6 of his 8 years) is something that even I didn’t see coming.
So let’s play a game: assemble your own President Frankenstein Monster, and make hir as evil as you want, or as ineffective as you want, or as great as you can imagine, based on the performances of the previous 43 U.S. Presidents. First, decide whether you’re building a President Frank or President Frances Monster. You can make up an interesting backstory–or, just let history be your guide.
For example, my ideal President Frances Monster would have:
- the foresight and foreign policy goals of George Washinton
- Thomas Jefferson’s intelligence and commitment to civil liberties
- the unshakeable determination of Andrew Jackson
- Abraham Lincoln’s ability to use a crisis to her advantage
- domestic policy goals aligned with Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson
- the political skills of Ronald Reagan
- the ruthlessness of George W. Bush (Yes, this will be especially tricky for a woman. I think she’ll specialize in the smooth double-cross: shanking people with the left hand while shaking hands with the right. Think Prime Minister Francis Urquhart in House of Cards, minus the homocide.)
Your turn. Make it count. (Or, argue with me about any or all of the above.)