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January 29, 2015

Why History Will Be Very Kind to Obama

“Ten and a half years ago, at the Democratic convention in Boston, Barack Hussein Obama was introduced to America as a youthful, magnetic man who had burst suddenly and somewhat mysteriously onto the scene. This characterization — superficially appealing yet weightless, more symbolic than substantive — followed him throughout his presidential campaign, when Hillary Clinton cast him as an inspirational speechmaker like Martin Luther King Jr., as opposed to a viable contender for president, and John McCain’s campaign scathingly labeled him a “celebrity,” attractive but vacuous.
 
“The lived reality of Obama’s presidency has unfolded as almost the precise opposite of this trope. He has amassed a record of policy accomplishment far deeper than even many of his supporters give him credit for. He has also survived a dismal, and frequently terrifying, 72 months when at every moment, to go by the day-to-day media, a crisis has threatened to rock his presidency to its core. The episodes have been all-consuming: the BP oil spill, swine flu, the Christmas underwear bomber, the IRS scandal, the healthcare.org launch, the border crisis, Benghazi. Depending on how you count, upwards of 19 events have been described as “Obama’s Katrina.”
 
“Obama’s response to these crises—or, you could say, his method of leadership — has been surprisingly consistent. He has a legendarily, almost fanatically placid temperament. He has now spent eight years, counting from the start of his first presidential campaign, keeping his head while others were losing theirs, and avoiding rhetorical overreach at the risk of underreach. A few months ago, the crisis was the Ebola outbreak, and Obama faced a familiar criticism: He had botched the putatively crucial “performative” aspects of his job. “Six years in,” BusinessWeek reported, “it’s clear that Obama’s presidency is largely about adhering to intellectual rigor — regardless of the public’s emotional needs.”
 
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“News of the law’s impact has not filtered out to the broader public, but people who study the industry for a living have little doubt as to its impact. It is “altering Wall Street in fundamental ways,” The Wall Street Journal reported last summer. “There is no question that many of the highest-risk activities, which happened to be the most profitable activities for Wall Street, are now at least reduced and often totally gone,” Dennis Kelleher, a sharp critic of the industry, said recently. After slightly favoring Obama in 2008, Wall Street has now donated overwhelmingly to the Republican Party, which has staunchly promised to scrap Dodd-Frank.
 
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Read the full New York Magazine article by Jonathon Chait here.  
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