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Roger L. Simon

Which Former President Does Barack Obama Most Resemble?

June 13th, 2012 - 12:09 am

Now that we are deep into a presidential election year that promises to be a referendum on the direction of our nation, possibly even of the world, it seems appropriate to examine similarities between our current president and past presidents to see what that reveals.

Which former president most closely resembles Barack Obama? I have my theory. You may feel differently. Whoever the choice may be, the discussion of the subject may tell us important things about what we should be looking for in leadership.

The conventional wisdom, especially on the right, is that of all past presidents Barack Obama most closely resembles Jimmy Carter. Both men, after all, presided over parlous economic times and chose ultra-typical liberal solutions that did not work, apparently worsening the situation and leading to, in Carter’s own term, national “malaise.” Both men also had to deal with serious challenges from Iran and did so, to say the least, ineffectually.

So the case for Carter — who, as we all know, was not reelected — is strong. But I have another candidate, one who to me resembles Barack Obama more, especially in personality and style.

His name is Richard Nixon.

Now I realize the comparison is unfair to Nixon who, other than Watergate of course, was a pretty decent president. He and his cohort Henry Kissinger opened Red China and effectively changed history by triangulating the Soviet Union. What those two men did helped lead to the diminution of Maoism as well and probably saved a huge number of lives.

Tricky Dick also ratified the first, and ultimately most significant, U. S. environmental legislation, the kind that actually had a positive effect on the air and water, as opposed to the destructive self-regarding nonsense we have today.

Unfortunately, Nixon, for all his political brilliance, was an overly suspicious, many have even said paranoid, man.

And therein lies the similarity to Barack Obama. Call Obama “Nixon lite.”

From the very beginning Obama gave hints of Nixonian traits, but now, with his presidency crumbling around him, the global economy in freefall, and his signature healthcare legislation loved only by members of his immediate family (and even they have probably not read it), he is approaching the apotheosis of Nixonianism – sweaty brows, furtive looks, and a generally solitary and paranoid style.

Even the normally sympathetic Vanity Fair has portrayed him as an isolated man — one who has isolated himself. Is that not Nixon?

And his attorney general, Eric Holder, is being quintessentially Nixonian, repeatedly prevaricating in front of Congress on the “Fast & Furious” scandal. As with Nixon, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

Although I admit the tone of this article is to some degree sarcastic, unlike Bill Maher, I take little pleasure in biting sarcasm toward my political adversaries. The condition of country is not good, worse, in fact, than it was even under Carter and certainly under Nixon.

The mainstream media, as again we all know, never examined Obama the man when he first ran for office, although there were many markers available to them. They received him instead with a swoon, the exact opposite manner from which they received Nixon back in the day.

But the American public deserves better than incompetents like Carter and paranoids like Nixon. They deserve grown-ups, perhaps devoid of flash and charisma, but competent enough to do the job. Maybe we need a new Calvin Coolidge.

If you don’t think my comparison is apt, let me know. I know it’s not perfect — history may repeat itself, but never identically — but it’s the best I could do at the moment. Have at me.

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