Obama Grade From Historians Will Drop Without Health-Care Bill

Historians in the News

Five of the U.S. historians whose insights President Barack Obama sought at a dinner last summer give him grades averaging a B-plus for his first year in office if his push for health-care legislation succeeds.

Obama’s handling of the economy won praise; what was seen as a lack of leadership on health care and a missed opportunity to seize on populist outrage about bank bonuses earned criticism. Making the judgments were Doris Kearns Goodwin, Robert Dallek, H. W. Brands, Douglas Brinkley and David Kennedy, who were among nine historians at the June 30 White House meal.

The ultimate assessment of Obama’s first year hinges on the fate of his bid to overhaul the U.S. health-care system, said Brands, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

If the measure passes, “then the main thing that he aimed for this year was a success,” said Brands. “If it falls apart, he’s a loser.”

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