by Frank Li
This article was triggered by the photo below and the stories surrounding it: killing Osama Bin Laden has been hailed as one of the greatest achievements of the Obama Presidency. My immediate reaction was: What a big deal – Anyone could have done it, had s/he been sitting in President Obama’s chair!
More profoundly, it started me thinking about a much bigger question: how much lower can the bar for measuring the greatness of an American President go? Puzzled? Let me make the point by comparing President Obama with President Nixon.
1. Richard Nixon
According to Wikipedia,
Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974, when he became the only president to resign the office. Nixon had previously served as a Republican U.S. representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. He graduated from Whittier College in 1934 and Duke University School of Law in 1937, returning to California to practice law. He and his wife, Pat Nixon, moved to Washington to work for the federal government in 1942. He subsequently served in the United States Navy during World War II. Nixon was elected in California to the House of Representatives in 1946 and to the Senate in 1950. His pursuit of the Alger Hiss case established his reputation as a leading anti-communist, and elevated him to national prominence. He was the running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican Party presidential nominee in the 1952 election. Nixon served for eight years as vice president. He waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1960, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy, and lost a race for Governor of California in 1962. In 1968, he ran again for the presidency and was elected.
Although Nixon initially escalated America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, he subsequently ended U.S. involvement in 1973. Nixon’s visit to the People’s Republic of China in 1972 opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, and he initiated détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union the same year. Domestically, his administration generally embraced policies that transferred power from Washington to the states. Among other things, he launched initiatives to fight cancer and illegal drugs, imposed wage and price controls, enforced desegregation of some Southern schools, and established the Environmental Protection Agency. Though he presided over the lunar landings beginning with Apollo 11, he scaled back manned space exploration. He was re-elected by a landslide in 1972.
Nixon’s second term saw an Arab oil embargo, the resignation of his vice president, Spiro Agnew, and a continuing series of revelations about the Watergate scandal and other misconduct by members of the administration. The scandal escalated, costing Nixon much of his political support, and on August 9, 1974, he resigned in the face of almost certain impeachment and removal from office. After his resignation, he controversially received a pardon issued by his successor, Gerald Ford. In retirement, Nixon’s work as an elder statesman, authoring several books and undertaking many foreign trips, helped to rehabilitate his public image. He suffered a debilitating stroke on April 18, 1994, and died four days later at the age of 81.
2. President Nixon’s two biggest achievements
Personally, I think President Nixon should be considered one of the greatest American Presidents in [recent] history (Top-10 American Misconceptions about 10 Recent American Presidents), perhaps even ahead of President Reagan, except for the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s subsequent resignation. A bit shocked by this bold assessment? Hear me out …
President Nixon did two extraordinary things that fundamentally changed America (and the world) for the better:
He established diplomatic relations with China, which was really the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
He created the petrodollar by convincing the Saudis (and hence the OPEC) to price and sell their oil in the US$ (in exchange for the U.S. military protection of the kingdom).
Next, let me briefly elaborate on these two achievements.
2.1 US-China relations
China had serious internal problems prior to and throughout the Nixon Presidency (America: What is China, Anyway?). But Nixon saw something very valuable in China: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
At that time, the #1 enemy of the U.S. was unquestionably the Soviet Union. To end the Vietnam War and to ultimately win the Cold War, the U.S. needed China. President Nixon not only saw it (what a great visionary!), but also made it happen (what a great rainmaker!).
Here are two net results:
China opened up and joined forces with the U.S. against the Soviet Union.
China developed. The June 4, 1989 event in China (Tiananmen Square) had a direct impact on the fall of the Berlin Wall, despite the fact that it has not been adequately acknowledged in the West, yet.
According to Wikipedia,
A petrodollar is a United States dollar earned by a country through the sale of its petroleum to another country. The term was coined in 1973 by Georgetown University economics professor, Ibrahim Oweiss, who recognized the need for a term that could describe the dollar received by petroleum exporting countries (OPEC) in exchange for oil.
The term petrodollar should not be confused with petrocurrency which refers to the actual national currency of each petroleum exporting country.
Two huge benefits the petrodollar has brought to the U.S.:
The U.S. can “buy” oil by printing the US$.
All other countries must earn the US$ to buy oil.
Three questions for you:
Can you possibly imagine a better deal for America than this?
Do you know this is a key reason behind America’s prosperity over the past four decades?
Do you also know this is about to end if we stay the course?
3. President Obama’s big achievements
I just can’t think of any, especially when compared with President Nixon! Can you?
Maybe here are some possibilities in your mind:
Taxing the rich while knowing (or pretending not to know) that there are simply not enough rich out there to be taxed, even at 100%, in order to make a dent in our totally out-of-control annual deficit and monumental national debt.
Raising the minimum wage while the market wage is going down. Yes, we are practically still in the Great Recession, with the real unemployment rate being around 20%!
Women in combat.
Are you serious? Oh, what about Obamacare? Good luck with that guess!
Leadership matters! Experience matters! The American Presidency matters!
Elect a good President, America benefits; elect a bad one, America suffers. Unfortunately for America, we have had several very bad Presidents recently (American Presidents: Three Best and Three Worst). Why and how? It’s the political system, stupid! In other words, unless the political system is fundamentally changed for the better, the streak of bad American Presidents will continue …
Now, who will end the petrodollar? China! How? Read: Solution II for America: Term-Limits and More! Here is an excerpt:
By 2020, we will have printed so much money that few major economies will buy U.S. treasury bills any more. We may have to (1) accept RMB from China in order to sell them some Boeing 787s and (2) use RMB to buy goods from China. As a result, everything in Wal-Mart will be 10 times more expensive!
In other words, China’s RMB is well on its way to becoming an alternative reserve currency to the US$. Moreover, several nations (e.g. Russia and Venezuela) have already been trading with China in RMB. The trade certainly includes oil, which is really the beginning of the end of the domination of the petrodollar.
For a complete school of thought about China and the U.S., read my book: Saving America, Chinese Style!
History is often the best judge for a big subject like a good or bad American President. With this article highlighting President Nixon’s extraordinary achievements, do you have a better regard for him now than 10 minutes ago? I hope so! Knowledge is power!
Previously, I compared President Obama with President Truman (Barack Obama vs. Harry Truman). Now, with this comparison of President Obama vs. President Nixon, it should be very obvious to you, a reasonably intelligent American presumably, that times have changed for America, for the worse, at the very top …
It’s well known that President Obama likes to compare himself with President Lincoln. Do you see any resemblance between the two?