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I subscribe to the magazine, so I can provide the highlights. Might the opposite be true? The possibilities were large because the breakthrough was unheard-of. The country was exhausted by eight years on a crooked path. The nature of the doubt, the nature of the uncertainty, it is possible to think, made the early months of one of those plastic hours of history when the door to a large transformation swings open.

But the same American people elected an African American whose campaign had been center-left. He inherited a majority in both houses of Congress. It takes a refined sense of impossibility to argue that Obama in his first two years actually traveled the length of what was possible. In responding to the opportunities of his first years in office, Obama displayed the political equivalent of dead nerve endings.

His attempt to correct the abuses of Wall Street by bringing Wall Street into the White House might have passed for prudence if the correctives had been more radical and been explained with a surer touch. Obama promised in the election campaign to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and he did issue an order to close it.

American History for Truthdiggers: The Jeffersonian Enigma () - Truthdig

But the order was never implemented. One may notice a characteristic evasion built in to the grammar of these sentences. In short, once the wrong ideas were planted, the president could scarcely have done otherwise. Obama campaigned as an opponent of the Iraq war and a supporter of the war in Afghanistan. This was the position of most Democrats at the time.

But it was apparent when he took office that the Afghan war was lost. Karl W. Eikenberry, the ambassador to Afghanistan and, before that, the senior commander of U. No more troops ought to be added. Eikenberry recommended, instead, the appointment of a commission to investigate the state of the country. Any reasonably adroit politician would have made use of these documents and this moment. With a more-in-sorrow explanation, such a leader could have announced that the findings, from our most reliable observer on the ground, compelled a reappraisal altogether different from the policy that had been anticipated in A plainer opportunity came with the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, It gambled a further erosion of trust with Pakistan, and looked to give a merely symbolic lift to the American mood, since bin Laden was no longer of much importance in the running of Al Qaeda: the terrorist organization was atomized into a hundred splinter groups in a dozen countries.

As Bromwich noted, Obama could have said that with the killing of Bin Laden and the decimation of Al Qaeda, the goal of the Afghan war had been achieved, and it was time to bring the troops home. But he was content with a boost to patriotic morale that undoubtedly helped his re-election campaign in But unlike Lincoln, he did not have a cabinet with a diversity of views, nor did he impose his own will on them.

The largest issues on which Obama won the Democratic nomination were his opposition to the Iraq war and his stand against warrant-less domestic spying. He had vowed to filibuster any legislation giving immunity to telecommunications companies, and withdrew that pledge with a vow to keep his eye on the issue only after he secured the nomination. And yet among all the names in the cabinet there was not one opponent of warrant-less surveillance on his domestic team, and, on his foreign-policy team, no one except Obama himself who had spoken out or voted against the Iraq war.

Lincoln, by contrast, placed abolitionists in two critical posts: Seward at State and Salmon Chase at Treasury. Thus, on all the relevant issues, Obama stood alone; or rather, he would have stood alone if his views had remained steady. His choice not only of cabinet members but of two chief advisers — Summers and [Rahm] Emanuel — could be read as a confession that he was intimidated in advance. He regarded the Affordable Care Act as his signature accomplishment. But, as Bromwich noted, he delegated responsibility to five committees of Congress to draft it.


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He made no major political speech on the subject while it was under consideration. Responsibility for pushing the law through Congress was delegated to Vice President Biden. Bromwich thought this administrative carelessness, and his failure to explain the legislation, probably cost the Democrats their Senate majority in the elections. Bromwich did think that Obamacare is, taken as a whole, an important positive achievement.

The Trump Enigma

He gives the President credit for negotiating an agreement to end the U. I agree he deserves credit, but wonder if he will devote as much energy to completing the Iran agreement as he is to pushing through the toxic Trans Pacific Partnership. Basic Constitutional rights have been set aside. Like Bush, he has defined a category of enemy who are outside the protections given either to accused criminals or to prisoners of war.

Bromwich thinks Obama was simply intimidated by the secret intelligence and military agencies, both by the lurking dangers they allegedly avert and by their ability to undermine his administration. My own assessment of Obama is different. I think he is an astute and successful conservative.

Obama has governed in a manner that is moderate-minded and expedient. He has been mostly free of the vengeful and petty motives that can derail even a consummate political actor. His administration, the most secretive since that of Richard Nixon, has been the reverse of transparent, but it has also been entirely free of political scandal.

Nobody bent on mere manipulation would so often and compulsively utter a wish for things he could not carry out. Yet Obama has done little to counteract the regression of constitutional democracy that began with the security policies and the wars of Bush and Cheney. This degeneration has been assisted under his negligent watch, sometimes with his connivance, occasionally by exertions of executive power that he has innovated.

Much as one would like to admire a leader so good at showing that he means well, and so earnest in projecting the good intentions of his country as the equivalent of his own, it would be a false consolation to pretend that the years of the Obama presidency have not been a large lost chance. Here is a harsher assessment of the Obama Presidency.

Does this matter? In an administration that once proclaimed that it would be transparent like no other, but now has lied like no other, one can only guess. Times — but those academic records are certainly a significant part. Has there been a modern presidential candidate about whom we know less than the former Barry Soetoro? Has anyone ever had the audacity to run for national office without a thorough vetting by the national media, replete with quotes from those who knew him then, interviews with his high-school classmates, examples of his writing, anecdotes, etc.? Would a dope-smoking member of the Choom Gang ever have even made it into the Senate were that aspect of his background widely known?

What about his alcoholic, bigamist father? One way to look at Obama is as a man of remarkable political skills who has overcome a "compelling personal story" that would have sunk anybody else.

Daily Nation

The problem, of course, is that the media fell for the other "compelling personal story" -- its own. Follow PJMedia. Christian Adams. Ed Driscoll. Richard Fernandez. Stephen Green. Victor Davis Hanson. Michael Ledeen. Claudia Rosett.

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Michael Walsh. Roger L. Homeland Security.