Based on what we know now, what will Barack Obama's historical legacy be? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Let's agree to the obvious: that assessments of a president's influence in real time are certain to be flawed, and that swings back and forth in estimation are certain to occur. Both Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower left office with somewhat bedraggled reputations -- Truman as an unworthy / accidental successor to FDR, Eisenhower as a stolid unimaginative figure. By the 1980s Truman was enjoying a huge revival, and Eisenhower is (in my view) the great Wise Man of the second half of the 20th century, building American strength domestically while carefully husbanding our resources overseas. Even my one-time employer Jimmy Carter, of whom the kindest thing that's usually said is "Well, he's a good ex-President," is due for a reassessment pretty soon. Details on that later.
I made the case about the unknowability of a president's record, in real time, in so many more distinct talents than any one human being has ever possessed, that the question about any president is not "whether" he or she is going to fail in some way. It's just figuring outwhich ways they're going to fail at more seriously.about Obama three-plus years ago. Part of the article showed the dramatic back and forth in assessments of presidents. And part of it argued what I think is an underappreciated point: that the job of a U.S. president requires
After all that throat-clearing: I think that Obama will be judged, based on what we know now, as a much more-successful-than-fail
From my perspective, Obama's signal successes will be: judgment in a number of foreign policy areas, which to my mind include the opening to Cuba, the possibility of an opening with Iran, and the containing (though not elimination) of the long wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. I predicted at the time, and do as well know, that with the passage of the years Obamacare will become as much part of the expected landscape as Medicare is now. (I am old enough to remember how bitterly controversial Medicare was in the mid 1960s. Ronald Reagan got his political start railing against this step toward socialized medicine.) And although racial inequity remains America's original sin and main social challenge, I think his voice and presence have been very important. I did a relevant piece about that , and more generally on whether he is "chessmaster or pawn" .
- Speeches: Obama's speeches are interesting and keeps his audience engaged. Does the credit fully go to his speech writers?
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- Donald Trump: If Donald Trump pivots hard to the center later this year, how will he stack up competitively vs. Hillary Clinton?