The late President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk whose words have haunted every president who has followed him. It simply said, “The buck stops here.” The Oval Office is the place where the president is held accountable, and Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden have taken quite a beating over the years.
The dynasty of the two Bushes was marked by a bad economy and a couple of questionable wars. Operation Desert Storm was followed by the Iraq War. Pappa Bush, George H.W., had the most government experience and deserved a pat on the back for some good things, but the economy tanked and he tanked with it. The second Bush, George W., was plagued with bad advisers who destroyed his credibility.
Many of the Democrats and Republicans that I know agree that Bill Clinton was a good president. He restored the American economy and passed welfare reform. He kept us out of wars and left the nation with a balanced budget and a healthy surplus. But the Monica Lewinsky story has haunted him to this day, and any Clinton obituary will make frequent reference to that tangled relationship.
Barack Obama swept into office on a tide of support from voters in both parties. His speeches were eloquent, and voters lined up to hear him wherever he went. He was determined to pass a health care program that would attract universal support, and succeeded in getting his dream plan passed with the help of a hard push by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Obama’s image was hurt by the losses his party took in midterm congressional elections, and even though the Obama health care plan is now applauded, it didn’t help him at a time when he needed public support.
Donald Trump may have been successful in business, but those skills didn’t help him in the White House. He rarely followed the protocols that presidents must follow to survive, and he treated the government like his personal toy. He spent too much time tweeting, and surrounded himself with bad people who contributed to his downfall. He has the distinction of being the only president to be impeached twice.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.