Presidential analogies

Michael Barone asks If Obama wins, will he be another Woodrow Wilson?

I’m on record that I believe it’s more likely BHO will play Hoover to Romney’s (?) FDRnot quite up to the task, discredits a political philosophy for a generation or more, succeeded by a slippery fellow who cheerfully reaps the benefits when the rebound occurs.  (Naturally I’m going to argue that there is the small matter of getting the policy correct.  Romney will reverse course, rein in spending, reform entitlements, repeal Obamacare, unwind regulations… right?  Right?  RIGHT?!   Sigh.)

Here’s Barone:

There has only been one president in American history who won a second term by a smaller popular vote percentage and electoral vote margin than four years before. That was Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat elected in a three-way contest against his two predecessors in 1912 and re-elected in 1916 by 49 to 46 percent in popular votes and 277 to 254 in the Electoral College.

If California, which then had only 13 electoral votes, had not gone for Wilson by 3,773 votes, the incumbent would have lost….

Voters must hope that a second Obama term won’t be as disastrous as the second Wilson term. Democrats must hope it’s not as disastrous for their party.

Barone has previously likened BHO to FDR; but only to draw an unfavorable comparison of the former’s first term to the latter’s second:

Obama’s term does resemble Roosevelt’s — but his second term in office, not the first…  The numbers for the second Roosevelt term were not so nice. Rounded off, they were 14 percent, 19 percent, 17 percent, 15 percent — higher at the end than after the first year, with a spike in between. More like Obama’s numbers than like Roosevelt’s first term.

The second Roosevelt term was so dismal that many New Deal historians glossed over it or avoided it altogether…

Why did Roosevelt’s second term turn out so poorly? Basically, because his policies were so unpopular. His 1935 labor act led to violent sit-down strikes in auto, steel and rubber factories, in which union victories were resented by the wider public.

His high tax rates on high earners — the great white whale of the Ahab-like Obama — plus something called the excess profits tax and the threat of onerous new regulation discouraged business investment, leading to what some called a capital strike.

In that setting, many liberals, as historian Alan Brinkley writes, “reached the pessimistic conclusion that stagnation had become the normal condition of modern industrial economies.” Sounds like Bill Clinton’s argument: No one could do better…

Of course we know that Roosevelt won a third term and then a fourth after that. The New Deal historians have taken that as evidence that Americans loved his big-government policies.

But Roosevelt won in 1940 and 1944 on foreign affairs and as a war leader. The outbreak of World War II in September 1939 overshadowed economic complaints…  Roosevelt and his party were rescued from his second term record by a world crisis. It’s not clear what will rescue Obama’s candidacy.

Holman Jenkins in Good Businessman, Bad President?

Good presidents in their time are good presidents in their time. The next president may well suffer the Herbert Hoover-George Bush fate of being tarred in history with an economic cataclysm decades in the making. The disjointment between our spending and revenues is just that serious.

If so, either candidate now running might best serve his reputation by letting the other win.

Here’s VDH @ NRO, from A presidency squandered:

In other words, the future seemed to be all Barack Obama’s. Bill Clinton’s second term offered an easy blueprint of what bipartisan centrism might achieve. Balance the budget and create jobs, and the nation will forgive anything, from lying under oath to romancing an intern in the Oval Office.

And what happened?

Barack Obama chose to ram down the nation’s throat a polarizing, statist agenda, energized by the sort of hardball politics he had learned in Chicago. Rather than bring the races, classes, and genders together, he gave us an us-versus-them crusade against the “1 percenters” and the job creators who had not “paid their fair share,” accusations of a Republican “war on women,” and the worst racial polarization in modern memory. Statesmanship degenerated into chronic blame-gaming and “Bush did it,” as he piled up over $5 trillion in new debt. Financial sobriety was abandoned in favor of creating new entitlement constituencies, and job creation was deemed far less important than nationalizing the health-care system.

And so here we are, three weeks before the election, with a squandered presidency and a president desperately seeking reelection not by defending his record, but by demonizing his predecessor, his opponent — and half of the country.

What, then, was Obama’s first term?

Jimmy Carter’s ends justifying Richard Nixon’s means.

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