News & Politics

Stop Renaming Highways After Obama

(Aude Guerrucci/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Back in June, I wrote about the recent push by local school boards to rename their schools to honor Barack Obama, the president who spent eight years under a dark cloud of dozens of scandals, oversaw the worst economic recovery history, gave billions of dollars to Iran, doubled the national debt, allowed for the creation of ISIS, spied on Americans, etc., etc., etc.

As if renaming schools after Obama isn’t insulting enough, apparently, highways are the next frontier in the “Put-Obama’s-Name-On-Things” movement. Last week, a portion of the 134 Freeway in between Los Angeles and Pasadena, Calif., was renamed “Barack H. Obama Highway” after legislation introduced by California state Sen. Anthony J. Portantino won bipartisan support earlier this year. Why in California? Because Obama went to Occidental College and briefly lived in Pasadena.

As I have pointed out more than once, Obama’s record as president should disqualify him from ever being honored by having schools, highways, or anything else named for him. That schools and highways are being named after him is the most insulting form of a participation trophy. But, it gets worse.

In Obama’s home state of Illinois, there is now talk about renaming an expressway on Chicago’s south side after him, since the south side is where Obama got his start as a community organizer. What makes this particular proposal insulting is that the expressway they want to name after Obama is already honoring another person.

A member of a prominent Chicago political family running for mayor suggested that an expressway on the city’s South Side be renamed after former President Barack Obama, but the family of the man it’s currently named after isn’t happy.

The Dan Ryan Expressway, also designated as Interstate 90/94, is named for an ex-Cook County board president and his grandson, Daniel B. Ryan III, is hurt that Bill Daley would suggest a name switch without checking with the Ryan family first, the Chicago Sun-Times reported this week.

“Why would you take an honor away from one man to honor another?” asked Ryan III, 69. “Our family has been honored by this for 56 years, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

Keep in mind that Illinois is the same state that absurdly made Obama’s birthday a state holiday. He’s already been given one honor by the state that he didn’t deserve, but now they want to give him another that involves taking that honor away from someone else? Even if Obama had been a halfway decent president that would be inappropriate. Dan Ryan III suspects the push to rename the expressway after Obama is political.

Ryan III, retired after a career in the insurance industry, said he suspects the suggestion by Bill Daley was meant to pull in votes from Obama supporters in his campaign to become the next Chicago mayor. And Ryan III added that he, too, he is a fan of the 44th president.

“But you don’t change something just to change it,” Ryan III said.

Even Obama’s presidential library has been opposed by local residents and environmental groups. Currently, a lawsuit is underway in order to prevent its construction. Illinois may be a blue state, but that hardly means that slapping Obama’s name on something means that the locals universally get behind it—especially at the expense of another who was previously given that honor.

PJ Media’s assistant editor Tyler O’Neil pointed out four months ago, “Obama Day” in Illinois was a bad idea not only because Obama is a divisive political figure and is tainted by many scandals, but because it’s far too soon for Obama to be honored that way. “President George W. Bush left office in 2009 with a very negative approval rating,” wrote O’Neil. “But by 2017 it had increased significantly. Obama’s own approval rating was very high at the end of his presidency, but the people may change their ideas as time goes on.” I believe they will.

Obama may be the first black president, but he should be judged by his record, not the color of his skin. Those seeking to name their buildings and highways and who-knows-what-else after him are rushing to lionize him before the appropriate passage of time allows for some objectivity in assessing whether such honors are deserved. This is the same president who won the Nobel Peace Prize for no good reason, a decision the Nobel secretary regrets. That should be considered a warning for those who are rushing to give him awards and honors he doesn’t deserve.


Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis