“The power of the office is unique and it is a humbling privilege.”
September 24, 2016 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Barack Obama and Doris Kearns Goodwin: The Ultimate Exit Interview [Vanity Fair] As his two-term presidency draws to a close, Barack Obama is looking back—at the legacies of his predecessors, as well as his own—and forward, to the freedom of life after the White House. In a wide-ranging conversation with one of the nation’s foremost presidential historians, he talks about his ambitions, frustrations, and the decisions that still haunt him.
posted by Fizz (42 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't agree with everything he's done, but by God I am going to miss this thoughtful, wise, mature person as the public face of my country.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:43 AM on September 24, 2016 [54 favorites]


Four more years!
Four more years!
posted by chavenet at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


After hearing repeatedly about LBJ pranking people with his Amphicar, there's just something very satisfying in learning how annoyed he got when someone didn't fall for it.
posted by ckape at 9:48 AM on September 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Between two ferns joked about it, but my son is 8. He's literally never seen anyone as president other than Barack Obama. Doesn't come up often, but when I'm confronted with that fact it still blows my mind.

While I'll miss having him in there, I'm pretty sure he's not going to be hard to find post-presidency. My hunch (and hope) is that he'll be engaged in ways that we really haven't seen from former presidents apart from Carter.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:51 AM on September 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


If only his wife was running...
posted by blue_beetle at 10:03 AM on September 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've always been fascinated by the corrupting force of power. I feel like there aren't many politicians (leaders in particular) who aren't worse people when they leave office than when they entered public life. My sense was that Truman was the only President who wasn't really corrupted in any real way* (being that he was almost broke when he left the office). But I've come to think Obama has a claim to join him now.

Though it should also be noted that scale changes perspective. Compared to the prospect of Trump, both Bushes look downright statesman-like now...something I would not have said 8 years ago.

*And yes, I know Truman wasn't a perfect human being, having dropped the bomb and all. But I don't think that decision was a result of being corrupted by power or by politics.
posted by dry white toast at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I feel like there aren't many politicians (leaders in particular) who aren't worse people when they leave office than when they entered public life.

Jimmy Carter practically became a saint.
posted by srboisvert at 10:11 AM on September 24, 2016 [44 favorites]


Even though I typically have disdain for statism, I gotta hand it to Obama for his willingness to take the heat on this latest 9/11 families litigation veto. It's really sad that no one in Congress has the guts to tell their rabid constituents that it's a bad fucking idea.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:13 AM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's really sad that no one in Congress has the guts to tell their rabid constituents that it's a bad fucking idea.

It's also utter cowardice. Congress won't allocate funds to pay for health care for 9/11 first responders, but will facilitate victims lawsuits in other countries. Good on Obama for not letting them pass the buck.
posted by dry white toast at 10:57 AM on September 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Between two ferns joked about it, but my son is 8. He's literally never seen anyone as president other than Barack Obama.

literally all i want for this godawful benighted country is for kids like your son to reach adulthood without ever having had a white man for president
posted by poffin boffin at 11:15 AM on September 24, 2016 [27 favorites]


Or orange.
posted by zippy at 11:24 AM on September 24, 2016 [27 favorites]


I don't agree with everything he's done, but by God I am going to miss this thoughtful, wise, mature person as the public face of my country.

it's such a nice example. the witty, charming, handsome, intelligent, well-dressed man at your cocktail party, becomes the president who bails out the crooks on wall street, tamps down on whistleblowers, murders people across the globe from flying drones, provides the bombs and intel to commit genocide against the Yemeni people, starts two wars that lead to general catastrophe and on and on. it's almost as if what the US emprie demands have nothing to do with the particular beliefs or attitudes of the person who happened to be suckered into becoming president.

when murder and theft is your M.O., it's good to have a thoughtful and wise public face. So long, America's Michael Corleone!
posted by ennui.bz at 11:55 AM on September 24, 2016 [23 favorites]


ennui.bz: it's almost as if what the US emprie demands have nothing to do with the particular beliefs or attitudes of the person who happened to be suckered into becoming president.

Yes. Except you said "president". It'd be more appropriate to say "presidency". The Office of the President of the United State of America isn't a one-man office, it's a juggernaut with roughly 400 permanent staff, forced to govern in accordance with laws and policy decisions made anything up to centuries ago that continue to this day because of unbreakable treaty obligations or constitutional amendments, and forced to bargain with often-unreasonable jackasses in Congress who use their leverage over the presidential operation's desire for laws to enable their preferred policies to demand special considerations in kind (to pay off their own backers).

I'm pretty sure that much of the worst actions of Obama's presidency happened because there was no alternative; the bureaucracy runs largely on autopilot, and all the POTUS can do is issue thoughtful and sensible policy directives for future actions, going forward, and keep signing the death lists for the drone strikes that are already part of the mechanism.

The root cause of the disease is simple: the USA is a global empire, and empires always suck (at least for the folks on the outside of the magic circle, and often for the peasants within). Until the USA stops being an empire, the office of POTUS will be inherently corrupting. It would force even a saint to take brutal and ruthless actions from time to time: Obama hasn't done badly in foreign affairs, because ...

* He has negotiated a deal with Iran that walked back from the brink of another goddamn shooting war in the gulf to the point where Iran is buying lots of new airliners from Boeing

* He's backed the bureaucracy away from the insane fifty year long confrontation with Castro's Cuba to the point where Cuba is probably going to be a US trade partner in another few years

* He tried to get the hell out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East: aspirations derailed by the fallout from the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war, but props for at least trying not to start another goddamn war

... If you notice the phrase "another goddamn war" featuring in that list of Obama's achievements in the negative, and compare his record with the rhetoric of the Very Serious [neoliberal] People and idiots like Trump, it gradually becomes apparent that he's had his foot on the brake the whole time. The US State Department promotion ladder has to be periodically repainted in blood shed during a short victorious war by anyone aspiring to be Henry Kissinger's heir; Obama tried to let that sleeping dog lie, and I have to say he's probably saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives by not willingly ploughing the field the US foreign policy apparat bought for him.

(Note: I am a non-American. And, writing that, I'm remembering just how grateful I am that Obama seems to have indulged in about the minimum of war-mongering that is imaginable for the imperial presidency in this decade.)
posted by cstross at 12:11 PM on September 24, 2016 [177 favorites]


What Charlie said! (Note: nominate his comment for the sidebar. plz!)

Post presidency I'm looking forward to reading the memoir(s), it should be a doozy and not churned by a ghostwriter. Academic writings may have as significant impact on society as his time in office.
posted by sammyo at 12:43 PM on September 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


While I agree with you on Cuba and Iran, I can't buy the below:


I'm pretty sure that much of the worst actions of Obama's presidency happened because there was no alternative; the bureaucracy runs largely on autopilot, and all the POTUS can do is issue thoughtful and sensible policy directives for future actions, going forward, and keep signing the death lists for the drone strikes that are already part of the mechanism.


cite?

seriously. I'm pretty sure with regard to "death lists for drone strikes" as commander in chief, that he could stop or minimize these with the stroke of a pen on an executive order.
posted by lalochezia at 1:11 PM on September 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Having the executive authority to do something and it being possible to do it are different things. I think cstross's point is that many of the things that a president could notionally stop are not actually within their practical control.
posted by howfar at 1:20 PM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


seriously. I'm pretty sure with regard to "death lists for drone strikes" as commander in chief, that he could stop or minimize these with the stroke of a pen on an executive order.

And then you have to ask what the executive presidency does next, to compensate for the loss of hard-power leverage they've just accepted as the price of doing away with that particular [reprehensible and despicable] tool.

Would it be an acceptable trade-off if the price for cancelling the program of assassination by drone is that two years down the line the US army is sent in force to invade a country and kill people wholesale, rather than retail?

(The existence of tools implies an ideology. In the case of a global empire with a military force projection mechanism that can strike anywhere, that thing doesn't come into existence without an implicit imperative. We know Trump seems unpleasantly enthusiastic to know all about the nuclear release codes: we won't know until the autobiography shows up (if ever) whether Obama made a judgment call that drone strikes were a lesser evil than some other contingency he could see the imperial presidency resorting to if denied access to a relatively constrained murder tool.)

((I am not trying to defend drone strikes. I'm just observing that we don't have enough data to pass the judgment of history on that policy as a potential lesser evil.))

(((Having a job that involves life-or-death responsibility really sucks, which is why I don't do that kind of thing any more: I can't imagine how much worse it must be to occupy the POTUS' chair, with the ability to kill millions as a side-effect of a short-sighted mistake. See also GWB, 9/11, you know the litany.)))
posted by cstross at 1:20 PM on September 24, 2016 [21 favorites]



seriously. I'm pretty sure with regard to "death lists for drone strikes" as commander in chief, that he could stop or minimize these with the stroke of a pen on an executive order.


lalochezia, I am sure that the President could, but so much of the inability of the Presidency to do much as an office, comes down to the fact that the American political system is deeply partisan and divided. With every decision, you risk having another decision blocked or refused in some way. There does not seem to be any sense of compromise or give and take. Neither side (blue or red) is willing to budge. Things are only getting worse. It's very disheartening.
posted by Fizz at 1:24 PM on September 24, 2016


"both sides do it"

They really don't.
posted by howfar at 1:26 PM on September 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


So long, America's Michael Corleone!

Lol. I'm suddenly nostalgic for the old college Student Union.

Look, Obama is going to be treated fairly kindly by history, a serious correction to some major blind alleys the US was lead down prior to his inheriting the mess. Was he the perfect solution? No, but that is hardly possible in the US system (or, really, the world as it is rather than a student's fantasy). Are there still lingering questions about the problems he has not solved, the priorities he has set, or the questionable tools he has not abandoned? Sure. Are the answers to those questions the certainty in your comment, if only he could read it? Doubtful. Also, the world is a hot mess that is not all the result of American imperialism and/or Obama.

By laying the foundation for India and China to get on board with the US regarding addressing climate change he has probably done more to give the hope for future stability a chance than anything else he could have done.
posted by C.A.S. at 2:10 PM on September 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that much of the worst actions of Obama's presidency happened because there was no alternative; the bureaucracy runs largely on autopilot

While this is obviously frustrating as hell when there's someone like Obama in office, I can see some possible election outcomes where this aspect of the bureaucracy is a huge, huge comfort.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:23 PM on September 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure with regard to "death lists for drone strikes" as commander in chief, that he could stop or minimize these with the stroke of a pen on an executive order.

Bill Clinton once tried to kill Osama bin Laden in an extra judicial cruise missile assassination attempt called Operation Infinite Reach.

The next president rather infamously opted out of preemptively going after bin Laden.
posted by srboisvert at 2:33 PM on September 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


when murder and theft is your M.O., it's good to have a thoughtful and wise public face. So long, America's Michael Corleone!

God, this schtick is exhausting. Please try something else.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:57 PM on September 24, 2016 [29 favorites]


Still upset because Obama didn't implement Full Communism Now, I see.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Still upset because Obama didn't implement Full Communism Now, I see.

Come on. That's not a fair characterization.

The real issue for some of us is that Obama still hasn't delivered on his campaign promise to end all war and settle all international disputes with one on one games of HORSE. It is stated plainly in the article above that the failure to implement basketball diplomacy is Obama's greatest regret. How dare the President deprive us True Liberals (TM) of the chance to roll our eyes and *tsk* potential islamophobic tweets like: "why doesn't Obummer and Ben Ladin play a shorter game like PIG, roflol. #all games matter"
posted by Groundhog Week at 3:33 PM on September 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think history will judge Obama kindly, but I hope it is merciless on his Republican opponents. I don't think this is the most partisan time in our history (I don't anticipate a civil war after the upcoming election, even though Trump seems to want one if he doesn't win), but not enough has been made of the unprecedented pact made by the Republican leadership to oppose anything Obama did, the effect on the country be damned. The Republicans were bad enough before, but since the inauguration of Obama they really have pandered to the worst in this country and the worst in human nature. Greed, fear, anger, paranoia, racism, envy, hatred, ignorance … it will be a long time before the nation recovers from their perfidy.
posted by TedW at 3:40 PM on September 24, 2016 [27 favorites]


Theoretically the President-Presidency distinction is important and significant, but there's more to it. It's one thing to construct a narrative of: Look at all these policy successes Obama had in spite of his role or position. That's important perspective-setting, or even empathizing as a process. But that's technically also a fallacy because it conflates the evidence with the standards of evidence. This is what neoliberal thought tends to do.

So one way of getting out of this is to compare Obama's public rhetoric with his actions. Or even looking at his rhetoric alone, the things he says and how he says it--where does that put him on the political spectrum? Etc. And to make this concrete, compare his achievements to his campaign messages. Eight years ago, I was younger and actually believed the things he told us young people during his campaign. So there the contradiction is: your president will misrepresent his intentions in order to win the presidency. Obama turned out to be a fine president. Yet, how much of this judgment is a social recalibration of expectations, due to rhetoric of downplaying, emphasizing, and narrativizing that even this minute is in operation, in the interview? That's how ideological shifts happen. The only way to challenge it is by asking good questions.
posted by polymodus at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that much of the worst actions of Obama's presidency happened because there was no alternative; the bureaucracy runs largely on autopilot, and all the POTUS can do is issue thoughtful and sensible policy directives for future actions, going forward, and keep signing the death lists for the drone strikes that are already part of the mechanism.

No, Obama didn't just let "bureaucracy" run an autopilot; he's dramatically increased drone strikes relative to Bush. They've mainly killed innocent people, which also has ripple effects beyond those deaths:
"The U.S. practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims.... Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school."
posted by John Cohen at 6:44 PM on September 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


The drone strikes are unforgivable, and "drone strikes versus conventional war" is an obvious false dilemma. War is never an inevitable alternative. The strikes are not "the lesser of two evils." They are evil, period, and he could have stopped them. Instead, he greatly increased them.

The strikes are an avoidable abomination that he embraced rather than shunning. They are as inexcusably evil as the use of torture, which his predecessor and his predecessor's supporters did (and do) so much work to normalize and rationalize.

When we normalize, rationalize, downplay, and narrativize Obama's drone assassination program, when we set up false dilemmas to justify it, when we elide the fact that most of those killed were innocent people, often children, and occasionally even our own citizens, when we accept the euphemism "extrajudicial" in place of the more commonplace but equally applicable synonym "illegal," when we do these things, we commit a sin of the same kind as those among us who argue in favor of George W. Bush's torture program.

Some things are just wrong. There's not much in this world that's black and white, but some things are just flatly evil. This is one of those things. I abhor that it happens, and especially that it is done in my name, ordered by somebody that I helped vote into office. I cannot and will not forgive him. It is a stain on his legacy and a stain on the soul of my country.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:31 PM on September 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


Part of what a modern U.S. president has to calculate is the risk of disloyalty from commanding military officers. Just keep that in mind. America may sell itself as exceptional but the same pragmatic power dynamics that apply anywhere else apply to the U.S. no less so. A coup is no less a practical risk here than anywhere else, especially given the extreme conservative leanings of some within the military industrial power complex. The false dilemma might be a little more politically real than you'd think, only looking from the outside in... But I'm just speculating here. Offering one possible explanation for what otherwise might seem inexplicable. I do think Obama went into office genuinely hoping to scale back America's military aggression, but the leaders there had been getting their hopes up and anticipating an American military with a vastly more aggressive posture around the world after PNAC. It might not have been as easy as one would like to push back against those institutional pressures.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:20 PM on September 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


The two Stross posts above illustrate the danger of Obama hagiography. In two posts, it transitions from "did lots of good stuff plus few alternatives to the bad," to a defense of drone warfare as the lesser of evils, full warfare as the alternative, chaff about not "enough data" and the acceptance of current policy in the meantime, the necessity of "hard power" and global empire, and pleas for sympathy with the life-or-death choices of someone who voluntarily chose to run a war machine. I like him personally, but the danger of judging the person rather than the acts is that your affection for the person can lead to quite damaging defenses of their (few) indefensible acts.
posted by chortly at 8:23 PM on September 24, 2016


He should have stopped the strikes, bottom line. He failed on a number of key issues.

His handling of the clean up of Bush's financial crisis should have gone further. He should have pushed harder for a state plan option on the exchange. His Race to the Top education program was... flawed. His handling of the Deepwater Horizon spill was lukewarm, the immediate response was weak and not enough care was taken to minimize the environmental damage. Remember Corexit? And the penalties against BP weren't harsh enough. They should have been nationalized, stripped for parts and wound down to recover damages for the clean up once the leak was plugged.

But he presided over a lot of big victories and held a lot of even nastier stuff back. His presidency compares well to other modern presidencies. Even Carter ordered deaths and failed on the environment. No president has clean hands. He comes out looking better than a lot of them, but not perfect.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:24 PM on September 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Obama is a great man and will go down in history as one of our greatest presidents.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:09 AM on September 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't at all think he should have stopped the drone strikes. We're at war with Al Qaeda and Daesh. Obama managed to significantly reduce the number of civilian casualties in the strikes (in the late Bush years they were really unconscionably high).

ACA had to make it past Ben Nelson in the Senate. That's why no public option. He did push for it.

I don't think any of us are in a position to know how much lawbreaking went unpunished in the financial crisis. And, in particular, how much of it had enough evidence to bring a successful criminal case. We really don't know.

I didn't see mentioned the pursuit of whistleblowers (not counting Snowden here). That's something I just can't uunderstand. I hope Obama will talk about it in his memoirs.

Oh yes, yeah, the listening to Arne Duncan was at best very unfortunate.

How is Obama going to nationalize a British company?
posted by persona au gratin at 12:18 AM on September 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


How is Obama going to nationalize a British company?

The U.S. could nationalize the American possessions and operations of B.P. (which were Standard Oil back in the day). This would of course seriously antagonize Britain as they have huge numbers of investors in BP in much the same way the nationalization of American based multi-nationals pissed of America (and historically often lead to CIA backed coups). Like almost all presidential decisions its a dammed if you do dammed if you don't dilemma.

Besides, BP had insurance for Deepwater. If there were problems with the cleanup it's the insurance companies who should be on the hook (and that insurance was re-insured and distributed throughout the entire world wide insurance industry so pretty much everyone is on the hook. So really ultimately the true problem is regulatory and enforcement failure before the disaster - as always because businesses can insure and evade risk).
posted by srboisvert at 4:44 AM on September 25, 2016


Obama will definitely go down as one of the greatest presidents. Hell, Reagan did, how can Obama not?

What most people seem to forget is that back in 2008, he was campaigning as the more centrist, moderate candidate compared to Clinton (except on international affairs). Thinking back, I believe he really imagined he could work across the board, and draw in moderate Republicans to create a national health care policy. After all, Obamacare is Romneycare. Instead, he got the clown congress, which both moved him to the left on domestic issues, and incentivized him to prove how strong and presidential he is/was on the issues where he had/has actual power: military and foreign policies.

Also, the issues are so complex and unsolvable, I can't imagine what the right thing to do is. Happily, I don't have to do anything. The president of the US does not have that choice, even inaction is action - remember Rwanda.

15 years ago, the left would have one simple answer: give the Palestinians their land and all will be OK. The right would have their answer: create a democratic alternative to Saudi Arabia and all will be OK. At this moment it is clear that none of those simple solutions will help at all, even if one could even go there. So does that mean we should accept the massacre of innocents happening right now in Syria ? Or the slow wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq and Libya and Algeria and Mali and Ukraine and Burma and Nigeria and Somalia and Sudan and Yemen and I probably forgot some? How should the president deal with this?

I know a lot of people would say that the US has no business in these foreign countries, and I am inclined to agree. But politically, it really isn't an option. Open your TV, or your random news site, and see how people are being terrorized by their own governments or by different strains of terrorists. Knowing that you have some power to help, how can you not?

Finally, wars are ended, terrorists do go home. For me, the end of the cold wars with Cuba and Iran are monumental achievements, which may yet lead to sea changes in the respective regions. I've visited both countries, and I'm convinced that as trust builds, they will become formidable allies.
posted by mumimor at 8:19 AM on September 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


This interview made me think of my dad, who is a first generation immigrant, and one of the most fervent believers in the American dream I've ever met. And he hates, hates, hates Obama. He's lived through the tenure of one of the best presidents our country has ever been lucky enough to have, and he's seethed through it, clenching his teeth so hard he can barely breathe for how angry he is.

He's never read interviews like this, probably never listened to his speeches outside of soundbites on right wing radio, and thinks everyone sane agrees that the Obamas are a tasteless socialist blight on the White House. He has no idea of who Obama actually is; he only knows who he fears him to be. I want someone to interview this other Obama, this manchurian-savage-madman-muslim-limp-wrist weakling (and other slurs I'm sure). I can't even calculate who that person could be, how those fears could ever coalesce into a single representation of a person. But it doesn't matter, does it, that the slurs and fears could never hang together? What matters is the fear itself, and that it always burns, forever re-stoked.
posted by erinfern at 11:14 AM on September 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


He's never read interviews like this, probably never listened to his speeches outside of soundbites on right wing radio, and thinks everyone sane agrees that the Obamas are a tasteless socialist blight on the White House.

So does roughly 40-50% of the rest of the country, which is a big reason why we're faced with the prospect of a Trump White House. I never thought I would live to see a president as deeply loathed as Obama is by a very large percentage of his country. Bush was loathed, but Bush never had a Congressman stand up in the middle of his SOTU and shout "You lie!"; never had the deep-seated racist animus that Obama has had aimed at him throughout his two terms. Obama's not only never had it simmer down, but has lived with it at a rapid boil for eight long years. It's been exhausting and depressing living in the unthinking hatred that this president has inspired for the better part of a decade. I fully expect that hate to continue unabated no matter who wins the election, because it's taken on its own life now and is unstoppable.
posted by blucevalo at 2:32 PM on September 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I absolutely believe GWB wanted the best for America and cared about its well being. He was an awful president.

I tend to defer to the judgment of people like Obama on racial progress. He thinks we're still going slowly in the right direction. I look at the way one of our 2-3 greatest Americans ever, MLK, was treated; and I think Obama probably is right.
posted by persona au gratin at 6:05 PM on September 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


erinfern: that's really striking. Obama has given the most eloquent defenses of the American dream and American exceptionalism perhaps since Lincoln.
posted by persona au gratin at 6:06 PM on September 25, 2016


I have a lot of trouble judging Obama harshly for drone strikes or any other decisions he makes that seem, on their face, unjustifiable. I've read both of his books and found them wise and moving. I saw him in person during his campaign for Senator in Illinois, when he impressed me deeply in the primary by giving nuanced answers while other candidates were throwing out "red meat" soundbites. He was raised mostly by grandparents from Kansas who remind me of my grandparents from Kansas.

And he says stuff like this, that resonates so deeply with me...
I see tragedy and comedy and pain and irony and all that stuff. But in the end I think life is fascinating, and I think people are more good than bad, and I think that the possibilities of prog­ress are real.
And the "team of rivals" stuff, his dashed hopes of working across the aisle, and quotes like "I am a firm believer that you don’t do anything significant by yourself." And "They’re not always paying attention, and there’s a lot of noise out there, but when they have the time, they’re not looking to be spoken down to and there’s no requirement to dumb things down. They get it." ... Giving credit to all the pepple who worked nigghts to gwt the Affordable Care Act passed, who's names we the public don't know. All that bespeaks a fundamental willingness to see everyone as human, even his political "enemies," and his desire to work together.

His long view approach, "what will endure like the pyramids?" (I thought he was going say something about how slaves built them...) His willingness to accept that he is not perfect and neither is anyone else... His "starter home" and "baton passing" metaphors, so realistic, so not-narcissistic.

I admire him so much for all of that. He is one of my favorite philosphers... Deeply pragmatic and aware of the flaws in human beings and human institutions, but still genuinely hopeful, that in spite if those flaws life is worth living, civilization is worth having, and we can make things better.

I admire him so much that I feel like, if I don't agree with something he does, I am probably the one who is wrong. I am not a constitutional scholar or a successful politician, and I have not been black in Chicago or an American visiting relatives in Kenya or a child in Indonesia (he has been all of those.) And of course I have not gotten the security briefings he's gotten. He knows a lot that I don't know.

And I cannot believe when he uses bombs or drone strikes in the middle east it is because he hates "brown people" or because he has any kind of interest in wars for oil or war for its own sake. None of that makes any sense, and when you read about his actual foreign policy, it is not at all consistent with any of those motives. So why does he do those things, drone strikes and etc? I don't really know. I don't understand. But I am confident he believes it is the best choice available to him, morally and practically. And if he believes that, then maybe he's right. I am pretty sure if I should somehow find myself president (my nightmare!) I would make some decisions that would surprise my current self.

I will read everything he wants to write after he leaves office, and maybe someday he'll be able to explain...
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:46 AM on September 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Also since this thread turned into kind of a referendum on his foreign policy, I feel like it needs a "previously" link to the long form interview he gave about that topic specifically, and the MeFi discussion of that (as well as the responses off a bunch of foreign policy pundits):

The Obama Doctrine
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:21 AM on September 26, 2016


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