President Obama's place in history

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 27, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly in the "FACTOR" Follow-Up segment tonight. President Obama's place in history. The latest Gallup poll is 42 percent of America proving of his job performance right now. 51 percent disapproving. But in almost every category, the president's policies are unpopular. So how will history evaluate him?

Joining us now from Washington, Dr. Allan Lichtman who teaches history at American University and Jane Hampton Cook, a presidential historian who's written two recent books, "America's Star Spangled Story" and "American Phoenix." All right, Ms. Cook, good being with you. After about six years in where President Obama has had a turbulent time, particularly in the last two years, how do you see him ranking?

JANE HAMPTON COOK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think he'll rank ultimately in the bottom 20, maybe the bottom 15, depending on the choices that he makes with ISIS.

O'REILLY: Why is that so important?

HAMPTON COOK: Well, because ISIS, we don't know how great a threat that they are. And if we have another 9/11 or if we have even an Iranian hostage crisis, I think that will really decrease his ranking if things go really bad.

O'REILLY: All right. So if the terrorism strikes the United States, obviously any sitting president would take a hit. Mr. Lichtman, Dr. Lichtman, how do you see it?

ALLAN LICHTMAN, PH.D., AMERICAN UNIVERSITY HISTORY PROFESSO'REILLY: Well, I think she is misguided in many ways. Number one, legacies drastically change over time. You can't judge them at the moment. Harry Truman had 22 percent approval rating in his last year, half of that of Obama's. Today he is regarded as a near great president. I think Obama will go down as the most consequential Democratic president in the last 50 years for the following reasons.

Number one, his policies on bailing out the auto industry, the financial industry, and the stimulus stopped us from sliding into another depression. That's what numerous economic - econometric studies show. Secondly, the Affordable Health Care Act. He achieved something that presidents for 50 years have not been able to achieve without a single opposition vote. The only time that has happened in history. And I think over time it will be shown that the Affordable Health Care Act will in fact ...



O'REILLY: Become a sterling success. Certainly the president's rank will rise.

LICHTMAN: That's right.

O'REILLY: Unless there is a case of terrorism. But you're wrong on the economy. Because the American people are losing earning power, which is the only barometer for the economy. What you said about the bailout is speculation. Nobody knows if it would have been an impression or not.

LICHTMAN: It's not speculation. There are ...

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter what the ...


O'REILLY: You can't ...

LICHTMAN: You're speculating.

O'REILLY: You can't prove that that would have happened. You can say I think it might have ...


O'REILLY: But what you can prove is that American earning power among workers has dropped, significantly.

LICHTMAN: And when did that start? Under Ronald Reagan. It didn't start under Barack Obama.

O'REILLY: But it accelerated under Barack Obama.

LICHTMAN: No, it hasn't.

O'REILLY: Yes, it has. How do you reply to Dr. Lichtman, you know, clearly a fan of the presidents. When you ...

LICHTMAN: Not that much of a fan.


O'REILLY: I mean, you know, you like the Affordable Health Care Act.


O'REILLY: And while many Americans think it's destructive to the country. You're saying that he has just done a good job with the economy. Most Americans do not believe that, and the polls reflect that. So, you are ...

LICHTMAN: And the polls today are meaningless for a legacy.

O'REILLY: For the long-term, you're right. But we have to deal with the here now in reality. Go, Ms. Hampton.

HAMPTON COOK: Well, we look at the ...

LICHTMAN: Not for legacy.

HAMPTON: You look at the economic growth numbers, they have never reached three percent. And that's where you really have a more robust economy. It's starting at three percent or four percent and greater. And his has always been under that. There are 2 percent roughly now. So that's one economic indicator that goes along with what you were saying, Bill. And in terms of Obamacare, when did his numbers start going bad on the disapproval side? Well, they started really going bad after the roll- out of Obamacare on the website. And he was ranked as a failure in a Yougov economist poll. He was ranked below George W. Bush in the failure category. And that's obviously current Americans looking at it. But a lot of that has to do with their dissatisfaction with Obamacare.

O'REILLY: OK. Now, what about, Dr. Lichtman, and we only have a minute so I'm going to give you 30 and I'm going to give Jane 30.


O'REILLY: What about the $18 trillion debt that President Obama has contributed mightily to. It will be 20 trillion by the time he leaves office. That is just the ticking time bomb, is it not?

LICHTMAN: The debt started, again, to rise under Ronald Reagan.

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter - It doesn't matter when it started.

LICHTMAN: Let me finish.

O'REILLY: It's his job to get it under control.

LICHTMAN: It rose, again, under George W. Bush. Obama inherited a terrible economy. And of course, the debt is going to rise. But if you look at the recent numbers, you see the deficit has gone down.

O'REILLY: That's because of its spending under him rose dramatically. All right. Doctor.

LICHTMAN: And moreover, on the Affordable Care Act, there was approval ratings mean nothing.

O'REILLY: All right.

LICHTMAN: It's the substance ...

O'REILLY: And I seeded that. We'll see how it works out.


O'REILLY: Last word, Jane.

HAMPTON COOK: Well, you know, President Obama has a lot of really good qualities. But lately he hasn't shown that he is a good listener. And his aloofness is going to - is really starting to hurt him.

O'REILLY: All right. Very interesting debate, guys. We appreciate it.

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