Historians love Barack Obama…. the President has hosted a small group of supportive academics on three different occasions. These White House dinners weren’t just social gatherings, Obama presented complex policy proposals seeking historical guidance and acceptance. Obama counted on the approval of his distinguished guests; Michael Beschloss declared Obama the smartest man ever to be President – take that Thomas Jefferson!
What Obama heard from the historians… could not have thrilled him. Garry Wills, HW Brands, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Robert Caro, Bob Dallek- a who’s who of history writers- cautioned the overly confident President. Enacting an ambitious social agenda while fighting a complex war destroyed Lyndon Johnson’s administration. Personally making every decision, in spite of advice from subordinates doomed Richard Nixon. Obama bristled at the warnings- rumor has it he stressed his charisma as the deciding factor. Obama went as far as to cite Lincoln and emancipation as the example for his agenda….prompting Eric Foner to clarify the difference between 19th century abolitionists and 21st century progressives.
The President has forged strong friendships… with some of America’s leading historians. The historians have responded by proclaiming their support for Liberal policies; Doris Kearns Goodwin sees Obama’s policies as historic. No matter what becomes of the Obama agenda, or whether he wins a second term in November, he has already secured his place in history- regardless of the historical record…..