When the former president of the college where I taught retired three years ago, I asked a faculty member about the new retiree’s plans. From the account I received, the ex-president and his wife were headed for Washington, D.C., where they planned to live in Kalorama, near Barack and Michelle Obama. They apparently venerated the Obamas, and the closer they could settle near the $8.1 million dwelling of their leftist icons, the happier they would be.
I jokingly reminded my interlocutor that the Obamas spend at least part of the year in their $11.75 million house on Martha’s Vineyard. This would mean that the former college president and his spouse would be deprived of the joy of proximity to the Obamas during the summer months and possibly longer, and would have to deal with this yearly spiritual deprivation, even as residents of Kalorama. From her annoyed expression it seemed the faculty member imagined that I was making light of a serious matter.
Little did I know at the time that an assemblage of professional and academic historians would soon be ranking our most illustrious presidents, and Barack would finish among the top 10, in the company of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, etc. Every few years, C-Span sponsors a historians’ survey of presidential leadership. A group of 142 historians considered worthy of the honor was asked to rate our greatest presidents. As luck would have it, Obama made the top 10 within four years of leaving the White House. By contrast, right after departing office, former President Trump was assigned to 41st out of 44 places among chief executives in terms of professional qualities and placed last in moral authority. Although neither I nor any other historian of my acquaintance was asked to participate in the survey, we are assured that those who rank the presidents are being purely professional.
Equally noteworthy: Among those presidents who radiated “moral authority,” Obama placed among the top five. Quite possibly in a few years, he might edge out George Washington and other venerable figures whose visages now adorn Mt. Rushmore. Not surprisingly, the Bad Orange Man didn’t fare as well. That may be what happens to an ex-president whom the media accused of colluding with Vladimir Putin and inciting an “insurrection.” Or perhaps that’s where you go for beating Hillary and then quarreling with the Left?