How Accomplished Is Barack Obama?

I’d be remiss in not taking notice of the reaction of my much-esteemed founding forefather at Poltical Animal, Kevin Drum, to the Monthly‘s March-April cover package. If you read his entire post on the subject, it becomes clear Kevin agrees with Paul Glastris’ basic contention that, as his own title indicates, “Barack Obama’s Had a Pretty Damn Good Presidency.” But he gets a little grumpy about the cover art (a scaffolding over an incomplete carving of Obama on Mt. Rushmore) and the “Top 50 accomplishments” list that accompanies Glastris’ cover story.

Personally, I’m agnostic about the cover art. I spent a good part of my life living near a huge mountain sculpture featuring Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, so perhaps I am less astringent in my views of what merits this sort of tribute. I think it would be fabulous if Obama’s image was added to Stone Mountain, a place where the Ku Klux Klan used to hold regular cross-burning ceremonies, though it’s not clear whether the 44th president would ride next to David, Lee, Jackson on a horse or in a Chevy Volt.

As for the Top 50 list–sure, Kevin is right that you make it shorter. Indeed, the Monthly has done that too in a slide show whittling the list down to 25 accomplishments.

But that’s all a bit of a crapshoot. It’s too early to know which successfully enacted initiative will matter a lot and which won’t; indeed, a major theme of Paul’s cover article is that rating Obama’s ultimate accomplishments depends a whole lot on what happens this November.

So the task of figuring out where Obama stands among American presidents, like his presidency itself, remains a work in progress.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.