On Sunday’s broadcast of ABC’s “This Week,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman declared President Barack Obama to be one the most consequential presidents in modern U.S. history, even more so than his predecessor, Bill Clinton.
Partial transcript as follows:
KARL: You’re offering the most full-throated defense of Obama from basically anybody who is not on the Obama payroll right now.
KRUGMAN: Right. And it’s funny, because I was critical. But that’s the point, in a way. People who had this idea that Obama was going to bring a transformation of America I thought were being naive, but my God we got health reform, we got a significant financial reform. We are getting the environmental action is not everything you would have wanted, but it’s more than anyone else has done for decades.
KARL: So put it in context, what are you saying? He’s one of the most successful — FDR, are you putting him in that category?
KRUGMAN: No, FDR is in a different league, right.
KARL: OK, so where are you putting him?
KRUGMAN: In the end, Reagan did not leave the structure of American society particularly different. He did not, in fact, change the basic legacy of Lyndon Johnson and FDR. I think if my ranking of consequential presidents, at least in modern history, would probably be FDR, LBJ, Obama and then Reagan.
KARL: So, Leon Panetta, who serves as both the CIA director and his Pentagon secretary says that Obama too often relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader. Does Panetta have a point?
KRUGMAN: I am allergic to this kind of does he have the leadership quality thing–
KARL: Well, this is an important thing when it comes to a president.
KRUGMAN: Obama is pretty professorial. I’ve had a couple of meetings and I and other academics are there and sometimes think, oh, he’s more professorial than we are. But look at — again, look at what he did.
Bill Clinton is an incredibly gifted politician. Bill Clinton is a room and it doesn’t matter how many people are in the room, you think he’s talking to you. But in fact Bill Clinton was not a consequential president. And Obama, although clearly not the natural politician, he is a consequential president.
KARL: I think you would acknowledge that the least convincing part of your article is the one on national security.
KRUGMAN: I don’t think there’s any way you can call him a great national security president. I don’t think you can call him a terrible one, either. And what I say is, look, he’s basically fairly typical for a post-Vietnam presidents. He hasn’t done anything really stupid. And that is a big improvement over his predecessor, right.
KARL: So, you’re saying it’s not so bad. You have to grade him on a curve. It could have been worse. This is not a ringing endorsement.
KRUGMAN: My ranking is health care is a huge achievement. Financial reform is a much bigger thing than people think. Environmental policy, there’s some good stuff that is not getting enough credit. Economy could have been worse.
KARL: So, it’s–
KRUGMAN: But this is–
KARL: And national security wasn’t a disaster.
Not everything is wonderful, but some big achievements and no really huge disasters.
KARL: But does that really add up to one of the most successful presidents in American history?
KRUGMAN: Who is better?
KARL: Bill Clinton would say, you know, eight years of prosperity and deficits coming down–
KRUGMAN: But no real legacy in terms of policy whereas Obama really has left the world — you know, has left America a different place.
KARL: All right, Professor Krugman, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
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