Inside Obama's White House
The recent BBC documentary series on Obama's time in office paints a sympathetic portrayal of the 44th president, following him through his first days in office to the current episode, where he is forced to make some hard choices on whether to take action in Syria after president Assad crossed the "red line" and used chemical weapons against his own people. Some may see Obama's term in office an one of managing the steady decline of a superpower mired in seemingly intractable difficulties. These viewers may also see the documentary as a chance for Obama to get his excuses in early and, indeed, there are many. Yet most of these excuses, if that is what they are to be called are, I believe, legitimate. Not since Harry Truman has a president had to deal with such an array of dire circumstances. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a recession bordering on depression, were not of Obama's making. Neither is it Obama's fault that the Republicans have vacated any modicum of reason, thrawting more meaningful attempts to stimulate the economy and to pass laws on gun control.
That Obama has managed to get anything done at all must be to his credit. In the documentary itself, Obama comes across as thoughtful and wise amid a sea of reactionary forces that threaten to overwhelm his presidency. We sometimes forget just how real these destructive elements were and still are. If having a great president was always unrealistic, since the obstacles were perhaps too great, then the next best thing would be to have a thinker in the White House. Obama, who accepts in the documentary that he made mistakes concerning the Arab Spring, is certainly one of those.
Granted, excessive secrecy and a lack of boldness (yes, the Wall Street bankers should have gone to prison) will leave some lingering doubts for progressives. We are not feeling the Yes We Can anymore. How could anyone, when the US still has a healthcare system that puts the employer at the centre of YOUR health? Yet things could have gotten a lot worse. Imagine an America where pre-existing conditions still counted against you when it came to health insurance. The world undoubtedly missed a bullet in having Obama as president.