The American people judge their Presidents by whether they succeed in meeting the central challenges of their Presidency. Americans recognize of course that human nature being what it is, and the world being what it is, that every Chief Executive’s time in office will be marked by both successes and failures, but an unwillingness or inability to take on the most pressing issues of the day is the clearest writing on the wall that there needs to be a change at the helm. This is the case with Barack Obama.
Our nation’s history is replete with examples of Presidents who met the central calling of their time in office and some who have not. George Washington succeeded in pulling thirteen disparate, former colonies of the British Empire together under a new constitutional government. Abraham Lincoln preserved that union and caused it to live up to its founding ideals of securing the God-given right to liberty to all by freeing the slaves. In more recent times, Ronald Reagan brought an America thought to be past its prime back, making it once again the unrivaled leader of the free world, with a growing, vibrant economy second to none. Bill Clinton came to understand during the course of his Presidency that “the era of Big Government [was] over” and went on to preside over an unprecedented era of economic growth.
By way of contrast, James Buchanan did little to keep the nation from sliding towards Civil War, while Jimmy Carter failed to pull America out of the morass created by the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and a Great Society, Leviathan-like federal government run amuck.
The central challenges facing Barack Obama were to get the economy growing again following the financial crisis of 2008 and to at least start America on a path towards fiscal sustainability. He stated the centrality of the first task within weeks of taking office, “Look I’ve got four years, if I can’t turn the economy around in three years, I will be looking at a one-term proposition.”