Under Painting of Lincoln Peering Down at Obama, USA Today Explores Obama's Underappreciated 'Historic' Greatness

"Will doing 'big things' wind up costing Obama?" a Wednesday USA Today front page article worried, accompanied by a photo of contemplative President Barack Obama with Abraham Lincoln in a painting peering down at him. The caption: "History book bound?" The subhead for the story by Susan Page and Mimi Hall: "Voters' anxiety clouds his historic successes."

The effusive lead presumed Obama deserves credit for great achievements the public has been slow to recognize:

Big problems. Big achievements. Big costs.

Historians say President Obama's legislative record during a crisis-ridden presidency already puts him in a league with such consequential presidents as Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. But polls show voters aren't totally on board with his achievements, at least not yet, and the White House acknowledges that his victories have carried huge financial and political costs.

"There are always costs in doing big things," Obama told USA Today.

The duo later declared: "Historians call Obama's record incomparable." And they meant that as a glowing positive. (Larger jpg of the front page headline and photo)

A sidebar featured "Obama's legislative achievements" (hard copy title. In e-Edition: "Achievements for the president."):

- American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
- Affordable Health Care for America Act
- The HIRE Act
- Auto companies bailout
- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
- Omnibus Public Land Management Act
- New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia
- Education overhaul

The May 12 article continued:

Obama's ambitions are on display again this week as he prods the Senate toward passage of the most sweeping financial regulatory change since the aftermath of the Great Depression, a bill that aims to curtail the Wall Street risk-taking that fed the meltdown in 2008. The bill follows a string of laws and regulations that have reshaped the American landscape in fundamental ways: overhauling the health care system, rescuing U.S. automakers, imposing stricter rules on credit card companies, designating more than 2 million acres of public land as protected wilderness, expanding equal-pay protection for women and more.

"Even if he wasn't African-American, he'd have a considerable entry in the history books," says Princeton professor Fred Greenstein, author of The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Barack Obama.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel says Obama, whose campaign promised big changes after the eight-year tenure of Republican George W. Bush, came into office faced with a crippled economy and two wars. Obama put in place "a set of initiatives and accomplishments that are ... at the scale of the challenges that the country faced," Emanuel said in an interview....

Only after all of that did Page and Hall get to "reaction from the administration's critics" and how "resistance to an expanding government has fueled the conservative 'Tea Party' movement."

But those people are just confused:

Obama says he understands why many Americans are restless, and why his administration doesn't get more credit.

"There is no doubt there is a mismatch between our accomplishments and the perception,
but I think that makes perfect sense because we're going through a very tough time," Obama said in a brief interview. When people are jobless or worried about layoffs, they "aren't interested in abstract comparisons with other presidents."

One more bit of gushing:

Historians call Obama's record incomparable.

With passage of the $940 billion, 10-year health care bill in March, Obama has pushed through more substantial domestic-policy initiatives in 15 months than most presidents do during their entire tenures, they say.

As if that's a good thing. It is, if you are liberal and define success by how much you expand government.


From November: USA Today Defines Sycophantic Media in Front Page Homage to Obamas

From August: USA Today on Obama's Book List: 'Smart' Choices Display His 'Exquisite Taste'

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.