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Cardella: Rating the Presidents

One of my favorite subjects is the rating of our presidents. I have a book titled PRESIDENTIAL GREATNESS, written in 1966. Rating presidents is, of course, very subjective. And our evaluations invariably change over time. So how we view the Obama or Trump presidencies years from now will likely be different years from how we see them now. For example, whether Trump had a family pet will likely seem unimportant before long. The fact that partisanship grew under Trump unquestioned. The long-term importance of that partisanship less certain.

Biden’s margin of victory over Trump was strikingly similar. Yet Biden’s win propelled sweeping Republican changes in state laws to suppress some Democratic voters despite the fact that no such fraud was ever validated in any court. The partisan division that marred Obama’s two terms in office is likely to continue during Biden’s time in office.

That partisan division has deepened to the point where it’s helped stifle Biden’s legislative agenda. The challenge of the vaccination was met, but not so much the challenge of the infrastructure. The strictly partisan vote may face a similar fate.

The Democrats seem split against themselves. At times, opposition to Biden’s policies has been fueled as much by the progressive wing in the House as it is by GOP obstinacy. The progressives are sometimes the “opposition party.” But there has NOT been a total breach within the party. The president and the party leaders have to date managed to preclude that.

Republicans had underestimated the ability of moderate Democrats to accommodate some of the demands of the party’s left.

The Republicans tried to fight back by intensifying the cultural wars, but that strategy may not be as strong for them as it was before the pandemic. In the 2020 election, bread and butter helped Democrats get the edge, while the old cry of “tax and spend Democrats” lacked the ability to inspire more moderates to switch to the GOP. The issue to increase taxes on corporations and the uber-wealthy to pay for the large investments proposed by Biden, where they were before 2017 Trump tax cuts, has widespread support by both Democrats and Republicans nationally — just not in the Congress.

Trump’s success largely depended on whether he could buck the GOP establishment. Willingness to do so gave him more leverage in defense budgeting. He was the world’s greatest negotiator. His task was not easy. Trump’s handling of the pandemic was a disaster, from which the country is digging out from.

It was far from certain. Russia was no longer the powerful Soviet Union. Much of North Korea’s power stemmed from weakness, not strength. Despite its bluster, Kim and Trump walking hand in hand, North Korea might not be able to deliver. And Kim’s mysterious weight loss went unexplained.

It was far certain whether Trump could muster the electoral strength against a revived Democratic Party. What about navigating his ability to escape his legal problems? Trump had generated many enemies along the beginning years ago, even before his presidency. Stepped on a lot of toes. There was nothing they would like more than to see Trump humbled and his entire family perp-walked in the middle of the night.

Trump remained supremely confident. He didn’t see anyone, no weak Hillary candidate, who could beat him. He knew the job took cunning. The kind of cunning you couldn’t measure in an IQ test. Those GOP pols who still thought they could use him as a figurehead. He had outsmarted them before and he had to be convinced one more time.

Time to take them all for a ride one more time. They’ll be teaching classes on how he did it. Guys who never read a book will be reading this one. The comeback. Vindicate him. The art of the biggest deal of them all.

Now let’s start counting the books sold, shall we?

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