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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 that 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.

He jawboned against outsourcing and offshoring and praised rather than lectured private enterprise. He sought to re-industrialize 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 had argued that the U.S. could never drill itself out of oil shortages. He advocated making the use of coal so expensive that it would disappear as an American energy resource. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar were Obama's vision of an America 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 supply-side economics."

Summers had also predicted that 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 over a 12-month period.

After Trump's victory, economist and Obama supporter Paul Krugman predicted that 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. Unemployment has hit near-record 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, or lack of one.

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 sort of laboratory of contrasting worldviews.

History will decide whether a more managed or more deregulated economy works best. We will learn whether a focus on traditional energy sources is preferable to an emphasis on subsidized green energy.

In recent times, Republican ex-presidents--Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush--left the limelight upon the end of their tenures. They kept silent about their successors and allowed history to be the judge of their relative successes or failures. Reagan and the younger Bush often were ensconced on their ranches in out-of-the-way places. Obama would do well to buy a ranch too.

In contrast, progressive ex-presidents such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Obama saw the presidency as a sort of never-ending story. Politics were a 24/7, 360-degree, all-encompassing experience. All envisioned their retirements as opportunities to relitigate their administrations and to politick the present in hopes that future kindred presidencies would be progressive and would continue their own agendas.

Carter frequently warned that the Reagan defense buildup and tough stance toward the Soviet Union were dangerous and would lead to an existential confrontation.

Clinton became a fierce critic of the Iraq War as his wife Hillary prepared to enter the 2008 presidential race as an anti-Bush candidate.

Obama still seeks to convince the country that Trump is unfit to be president.

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.


Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University,

Editorial on 12/06/2018

Print Headline: The perpetual presidency


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  • Morebeer
    December 6, 2018 at 5:43 a.m.

    Well, when Obama accuses Trump of being "the founder ISIS," he'll have gone too far.

  • JakeTidmore
    December 6, 2018 at 7:33 a.m.

    To paraphrase Hanson's last paragraph....if the current president continues to criticize and belittle former presidents and vice-presidents and brag incessantly about his accomplishments, "the result would be as chaotic as it would be boring."
    Hanson simply doesn't see the hypocrisy of his stance. Hanson and the president are not so much presenting us with commentary as they are just whining.

    It's a shame when supposed grown-ups are nothing more than cry babies. It's a disgrace when they are pathological liars, narcissists, and quick tempered.

  • Knuckleball1
    December 6, 2018 at 8:35 a.m.

    Watched the Funeral Service for President Bush yesterday and could not help but notice that the Trumpster seemed annoyed at having to be there. H.W. shook hands with all of the former and current president. The Trumpster did not make an attempt except with President and Mrs. Obama. It was noticed by the new crews and was talked about after the service.


    What a creep and I am sure he is already planning his State Funeral and will be willing to bet it will have a Military Parade attached....

  • pcrasehotmailcom
    December 6, 2018 at 8:48 a.m.


  • drs01
    December 6, 2018 at 8:51 a.m.

    It's a classless act when former presidents openingly, aggressively criticize the current POTUS.
    Obumer took it one step farther when he and his wife campaigned for Hillary. Yes, Clinton did same for his wife, excusable.He didn't campaign for Gore.
    But Obumer has set the bar so low....I excuse Trump from responding. I'd call that low rent SOB out more often. His true color is showing, and it's not red white or blue.

  • WhododueDiligence
    December 6, 2018 at 9:07 a.m.

    When Obama became president in January 2009, we were in the worst recession since the 1930s Great Depression. Unemployment was skyrocketing toward double digits and the stock market was crashing. On March 6 2009 the Dow hit a low of 6,443. On the day Trump was elected--Nov 8 2016--the Dow was 18,332. Now it's 24,700 plus or minus and looking a bit shaky.
    As for GDP growth, 2018 is expected to be strong (similar to 2014 and 2015) largely due to temporary effects of Trump's tax breaks for the super-wealthy like himself. After 2018, GDP growth is projected (by the CBO, the Fed, and the Department of Commerce) to drop back to the levels which have been the norm since 2010. Of course there's the possibility GDP could decline into another recession.
    Obama inherited an economy in severe crisis in 2009. In January 2017 Trump inherited a so-called Goldilocks economy to go with his gold-y locks and to go with his history of being born on third base and thinking he hit a triple.
    We could say Victor Davis Hanson somehow forgot all about that. Or we could say Hanson isn't allowed to think about any of that in the vacuum of his Hoover think tank.

  • PopMom
    December 6, 2018 at 9:19 a.m.

    I agree with WhoDue on the economic analysis. Obama had to spend at the beginning of his administration because the economy was cratering. Now, we are enjoying somewhat faux good times because the debt is getting monstrous and we are going to have to pay it back.

    Many people, including Republicans, are criticizing Trump because he is a tyrant without morals who sides with vicious world dictators and attacks the freedom of our press. He is a danger to our form of government. I am so glad that George Conway is taking the lead among Republicans against Trump.

  • RobertBolt
    December 6, 2018 at 9:19 a.m.

    Well said, WhoDo, except born-on-third Trump thinks he hit a homer.

  • Foghorn
    December 6, 2018 at 9:25 a.m.

    Trump and Wife #3 should have, before they sat down, walked down the front row to the Carters and greeted each and every former POTUS and FLOTUS, regardless of how it would have pained him. It was petty and completely without class that he failed to do so. I wonder how it felt for him to sit there listening to the endless tributes while imagining - knowing - his own funeral will bear no resemblance.

  • RobertBolt
    December 6, 2018 at 9:55 a.m.

    As I have said before, Foghorn, funerals traditionally celebrate the life of the person lying in state, but Trump's funeral will celebrate the end of his state of lying.