Barack Obama…Greatest President Ever?
by Jerry Leibowitz
I was not trying to be intriguing when I mentioned to some conservative friends that I thought President Obama would ultimately be considered as one of our greatest presidents. “You mean great like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. What has he done?” one asked incredulously. They did not wait for my answer which would have been…”great like Lincoln…much greater than Washington who is incredibly overrated if only because he was an unrepentant and indifferent slave owner.” I’m not sure that would have helped my cause.
I muttered something about Jackie Robinson and was cut off again. In the present political climate, even political discussions taking place at card games and dinner parties start to sound like those on cable news. Blah, Blah, Blah; you leave with what you came in with.
I do believe that to understand why Obama may be considered as one of our greatest presidents you really must understand that the reasons why so many want him to fail are similar to the reasons that so many wanted Jackie Robinson to fail, reasons which are not as obvious as you might think. Like politics, baseball has a tradition where you scream loudly in favor of your team and more loudly against the opposition. You may even say off color remarks intended to throw the other teams players off guard. Sometimes fans curse, and some fans hurl insults that go over the line of decency, and in baseball at least, there is some tolerance if not acceptance of that extreme as long as it is only words that cross the fence line and reach the playing field. I suggest that many of those who yelled insults at Jackie Robinson thought they were just were rooting for their own team. In their midst were those who were not of a competitive spirit; they were not even baseball fans but were the most vile of human beings,truly filled with and spewing hate. We will never know how many and who was who and I do not think that ultimately matters. The yellers of all kinds were the obstacle that Jackie Robinson had to and did overcome, and the greater the obstacle the more remarkable the victory.
Jackie Robinson played 10 years in the big leagues from 1947 to 1956. He batted over .300 six times and left the game with a career batting average of .311. Not a power hitter, he had a respectable 137 homers and 734 RBI’s. Rookie of the year in 1947, MVP in 1949, he was a six time all star with six world series appearances, including one world championship. These are not the greatest statistics of any player ever to play the game. Yogi Berra had arguably better numbers during the same period while spending most of his baseball life crouching, but even his numbers are not considered to be near the greatest in baseball history. Yet Jackie Robinson’s numbers are the statistics of the only player in baseball history to have his number universally retired, arguably the greatest player to ever play the game. In my opinion, nobody really comes close.
We all must make our way in a somewhat hostile world. Truly lucky are those who are insiders, born with the correct gifts into the correct country and the correct family. Not that life is ever easy, but it would take an uninformed person to fail to acknowledge that succeeding in life is easier for some birth situations than others. If Jackie Robinson was the baseball’s greatest player it is because of what he overcame, not necessarily because of what he produced. In fact, I suggest that had he just been left alone, his legacy would be diminished as it would only be determined by his very good but not spectacular numbers.
So to all those who rail against Barak Obama, I submit that you are increasing his legacy with every utterance. As a result of your carrying on, his movie will be remarkably similar to “42”. He is the president who was plotted against on the night of his inauguration. He is the president who was called a liar on the floor of Congress during a nationally televised State of the Union address. He was called a traitor as he sought out and killed Osama Bin Laden. He was absolutely excoriated for his desire that most Americans should have health insurance. The questions of his legitimacy and loyalty to his country were constantly questioned and he was called a Socialist as he diligently sought to pull America up from its economic despair. Unlike baseball, There are no numbers in politics and therefore there is no real way to compare his accomplishments, or lack thereof, to those of his predecessors. What I do know is that like Jackie Robinson he inspired many among us, often those who needed inspiration the most.
To those who do not like President Obama, I say that you should have left him alone to secure his legacy on an even playing field. I know that many of you yell about him because you prefer the other team. But some of the tactics are ugly and unfortunately, and even the ugliest utterances get little push back from the more well meaning opposition. Many on the right hated Presidents Clinton and Carter. Many on the left hated Presidents Bush (W) and Reagan. We debate their legacies in accordance with their accomplishments. But because the hatred for President Obama seems to take on a Biblical proportion, his legacy will be judged by Jackie Robinson standards which you are powerless to affect. Regardless of his accomplishments, it is you who have turned him into perhaps the greatest president ever.