The per­pet­ual pres­i­dency

The Modesto Bee - - Opinion - Victor Davis Han­son is an his­to­rian at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama re­cently con­tin­ued his se­ries of pub­lic broad­sides against his suc­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Obama’s charges are para­dox­i­cal. On one hand, Obama seems to be­lieve he, rather than Trump, should be cred­ited with the cur­rent eco­nomic boom and the emer­gence of the United States as the world’s largest en­ergy pro­ducer. But Obama also has charged that Trump’s poli­cies are per­ni­cious and fail­ing.

Ap­par­ently, Obama be­lieves that all of Trump’s suc­cesses are due to Obama, and all of Trump’s set­backs are his own.

Obama cer­tainly for­gets the old rule: Pres­i­dents, fairly or not, get both credit and blame for ev­ery­thing that hap­pens on their watch, from Day One to the last hour of their tenures – even when wars abroad, tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and mar­ket col­lapses have noth­ing to do with their gover­nance.

Trump ran on the prom­ise of a “Make Amer­ica Great Again” eco­nomic re­nais­sance. He pledged mas­sive dereg­u­la­tion, fair rather than free trade, and tax re­form and re­duc­tion.

Trump jaw­boned against out­sourc­ing and off­shoring, and praised rather than lec­tured pri­vate en­ter­prise. He sought to rein­dus­tri­al­ize the Mid­west and promised to open new fed­eral land to fos­sil fuel pro­duc­tion, com­plete pro­posed pipe­lines, and lift bur­den­some re­stric­tions on frack­ing and hor­i­zon­tal drilling.

In con­trast, Obama ar­gued the U.S. could never drill it­self out of oil short­ages. He ad­vo­cated mak­ing coal so ex­pen­sive it would dis­ap­pear as an Amer­i­can en­ergy re­source. Re­new­able en­ergy sources such as wind and so­lar were Obama’s vi­sion of Amer­ica’s en­ergy fu­ture.

As late as last year, Larry Sum­mers, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil for two years dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, ridiculed Trump’s boasts that he could achieve an­nu­al­ized GDP growth of 3 per­cent as the stuff of “tooth fairies and lu­di­crous sup­ply­side eco­nomics.”

Sum­mers also pre­dicted the U.S. econ­omy would be in re­ces­sion by now. In­stead, it is likely to match or ex­ceed Trump’s prom­ise of 3 per­cent growth.

After Trump’s vic­tory, econ­o­mist and Obama sup­porter Paul Krug­man pre­dicted the stock mar­ket would crash and might “never” re­cover. “We are very prob­a­bly look­ing at a global re­ces­sion, with no end in sight,” Krug­man wrote in Novem­ber 2016.

In fact, the Dow Jones In­dus­trial Av­er­age has climbed about 7,000 points since Trump was elected – though it has given some of those gains back this week. Un­em­ploy­ment has hit near­record lows, wage gains are up, and the econ­omy is grow­ing.

Still, after 22 months, no one knows what the fi­nal ver­dict will be on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. So it seems wise to wait un­til Trump’s four-year term is over be­fore weigh­ing in on his le­gacy.

By the same to­ken, the fre­netic Obama should take a deep breath, stop ar­gu­ing the past, and al­low his­tory to ad­ju­di­cate his eight-year eco­nomic and for­eign-pol­icy record. Given that Obama was a strong pro­gres­sive while Trump sur­pris­ingly has proven to be a hard-right con­ser­va­tive, their pres­i­den­cies of­fer a lab­o­ra­tory of con­trast­ing world­views.

His­tory will de­cide whether a more man­aged or more dereg­u­lated econ­omy works best.

After the re­cent pass­ing of Ge­orge H.W. Bush, there are now four liv­ing ex-pres­i­dents: Carter, Clin­ton, Ge­orge W. Bush and Obama. There are five liv­ing for­mer vice pres­i­dents: Wal­ter Mon­dale, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Bi­den.

If all ex-pres­i­dents and ex-vice pres­i­dents were to weigh in non­stop on the cur­rent pres­i­dent and present-day pol­i­tics, the re­sult would be as chaotic as it would be bor­ing.


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