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April 13th, 2010
10:39 AM ET

5 presidents more 'radical' than Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/13/art.obama.hcreform.jpg]Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of John P. Avlon.

John. P. Avlon
CNN Contributor
Special to CNN

Newt Gingrich called President Obama "the most radical president in American history" at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last week.

The leader of the 1994 Republican Revolution is a smart man and a historian, so he must know better. But he's also exploring a run for president, an action that frequently suspends good judgment in pursuit of sound bites. Perspective is the first thing abandoned in hyper-partisan attacks.

So here is a look at five presidents who, it could be argued, exceed Obama in the "radical" sweepstakes.

1. Franklin D. Roosevelt: How about this for radical: a president who overturned the two-term precedent set by George Washington and ultimately won four terms in an era when dictators were in vogue worldwide. He also proposed expanding the Supreme Court to pack it with his own appointees, attempting to fundamentally alter the separation of powers. And his New Deal created the basis for the modern welfare state in the U.S., whose apex under self-styled inheritor Lyndon Johnson provoked a backlash that ushered in a generation of conservative resurgence.

2. John Adams: The nation's second president has been getting a well-deserved reappraisal, thanks to David McCullough's magisterial biography. But Adams' signing of the Alien and Sedition acts during the threat of war - effectively outlawing anti-government dissent and curtailing freedom of speech and freedom of the press - was a radically anti-democratic action and a black mark on this Founding Father's otherwise honorable service to our nation.

3. Andrew Jackson: The man on the $20 bill was the original populist president, a general who fought Washington elites, British soldiers and native American tribes alike. Old Hickory's wars with the Second National Bank, Congress and the Supreme Court were legendary. His native American removal policies rescinded previously agreed-upon treaties and brought about the infamous "Trail of Tears" that led to the deaths of thousands.

Keep reading to find out Avlon's surprising 4th and 5th choices for 'radical' Presidents...


Filed under: John P. Avlon • Opinion • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Al

    Jackson and Adams were reactionary (on the far right, looking towards the past) not radical (on the far left, looking towards the future). Lincoln broke with the past and took the nation in a new direction, cutting the threads of continuity with the past as the Civil War ended slavery, something sanctioned by the Constitution. You can argue that Lincoln, and anti-slavery, was, along with FDR and the New Deal one of the two most left leaning presidencies in American History.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  2. Smith in Oregon

    Obviously Newt if extremely biased in whatever meager view he has of any Democratic President. Nonetheless, President Obama has achieved more in 1 year than many previous Republican presidents have done during their entire 4 year term in office.

    Perhaps Newt is speaking of a Radical as a politician that does not engage in adultery and instead rolls up his sleeves to actually accomplish extraordinary pieces of legislation as the new Start Treaty, the new GI Benefits enhancement packages, the new College Tuition funding, the New American Health Care Bill.

    President Obama at this early stage in his first term in Office appears to me to be a moderate President who has constantly invited the Republican lawmakers to take part in legislation. If the Republican lawmakers continue their party of NO, that doesn't mean President Obama hasn't tried to get them to contribute.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  3. April

    Obama IS a very radical president and thank GOD he is!!! Change would never be possible without the radicals that have taken charge of our country!

    April 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  4. Mike

    Wow I was impress with this article, thank you for sharing you made my day Ive learned something from the past that I never learned in school. President Obama is no way associated the five on your list in fact far from it. As a blue dog I voted for him, and will again why because there comes a time when we as Americans should stop the daily attacks of games and do what is right for our nation, and President Obama is that man who for the right reasons is he right man for the job and beyond I stay let's give him a chance and why not?

    April 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Newt along with the rest of Republicans for years have spread false propaganda, they are no better than Iran and North Korea. We all know Bush started this war based on false propaganda.

    April 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  6. Kathy

    Thank you for a level-headed perspective. I live in Utah and oddly enough I am surrounded by very conservative people and I'm quite confident that I married into the most conservative family on the planet. While most of America would probably label me conservative as well; in this family I'm the flaming liberal. Over the years I've learned to bite my tongue to keep the peace–and I'm basically okay with that–but lately (since the election of President Obama) I've seen rational people going totally over-the-edge.

    After the recent Republican caucuses I've come across people that actually label Senator Bob Bennett as a liberal too! Everyone incumbent is out no matter their voting record or the power they bring to our state. Thank you for helping me keep my perspective.

    April 13, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  7. kathywalker

    let me state the obvious, pres. obama got handed the keys to the titanic after it hit the iceburg. a big thanks to the 10 yrs of failed bush economic policys. remember bill clinton took us from deficit to surplus. the way i understand it was he was the first guy to do so in 40 something yrs. the gop acts as if pres. obama did in the economy. the bush cheney regime is solely to blame for the economic mess we are in. thanks fellas.

    April 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm |

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