Is President Obama considered a radical?

Published 10:23 am Friday, April 30, 2010

Not too long ago Newt Gingrich called President Obama the most radical president in American history.

Since Gingrich has a Ph.D in history and teaches the subject, we should consider his as an expert opinion. Is Gingrich correct?

First, to be fair to Gingrich, he made this statement at a Republican political gathering and may be preparing to run for president in 2012.

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So it is entirely possible that political rhetoric influenced the choice of words Gingrich used in his description, making his claim perhaps more extreme than it might have been before a more general audience.

But we judge presidents not by the rhetoric of the opposition, but by their actions in office and the outcomes of those actions on the nation.

The first and immediate crisis that the new president faced was the economic collapse. President Obama had, as president-elect, supported the Bush TARP financial bail-out. That bailout became highly unpopular with the public but had the overwhelming support of Congress, making it hardly a radical choice by a president elect.

Then President Obama passed an economic stimulus of nearly a trillion dollars. Government spending to reduce the effects of recession has been a long-held prescription recommended by economists.

The stimulus largely funded individual tax cuts, aid to states facing critical service cuts, aid to individuals (unemployment benefit support), and government projects.

As a result of the stimulus there were tax breaks for dependent children, for college education, new home purchases, new vehicle purchases, and tax reductions that resulted in a 9.4 percent increase in tax refunds for 2009 taxes.

While some claimed the stimulus had little effect the non-partisan CBO recently reported that the stimulus has saved or created over 2 million jobs.

Still, many of the funded projects were those supported by the Democratic Party and not by the Republican Party, and in that sense were “liberal.” But can the case be made that the stimulus was radical? Only if the greater wisdom would have been that the government should not have spent at all to stimulate the economy.

Then of course came the president’s signature issue, health care reform.

It was indeed an exercise in politics at its worst, reminding us of the sausage-making comparison that politics is an ugly spectator sport.

But the final bill that became law was hardly radical at all. It denied a single payer system and affirmed the existing structure of private, for profit, insurance coverage.

Currently the president is focusing upon financial regulation reform, in order to prevent another economic collapse.

Hardly the actions of a radical, and certainly supported by the American people.

Finally, do most Americans view this president as a radical? No, they do not. In a new ABC/Washington Post poll Obama’s overall approval is at 54 percent. According to the poll the president is trusted more than Republicans on the economy, health care reform, regulating the financial industry, and even on the federal budget deficit.

The claim by Mr. Gingrich is not supported by any evidence. This president has made no radical decisions, enacted no radical laws, made no radical appointments.

This does not mean that Obama is satisfying most Americans.

While his personal popularity remains high many think his spending policies are harming the nation and need to be addressed.

And the president’s war policies have yet to show results that encourage Americans.

The president has not been able to achieve bi-partisan support in congress, a major complaint of many Americans.

But can his opponents successfully cast him as political radical? Not a chance.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.