A reader writes:
I enjoyed your piece on Obama's "Mushy Steel". It made me start thinking about the historical leader that I think he resembles most: Elizabeth I of England.
I am not by any means, anything other than an interested reader of history, but for some reason this comparison keeps rattling around my brain. Now, I am sure there are historians much more infromed about the politics of the 15th century than I, but the overarching personality traits that made her a successful monarch, are demonstrated by Obama. Elizabeth was intelligent, cautious, and patient. She hated war for war's sake and surrounded herself with politicians that were, by the standards of the day, quite loyal to her.
She was serious and conservative in her leadership style, and was not afraid to change a policy if it was unpopular. She hated religious extremism in all forms, and for the most part, encouraged religious tolerance. She inherited a country torn apart by endless war and constrained by a severely stressed treasury, and by the time she died, England was a prosperous, stable state.
Obviously, Obama doesn't have 50-something years to act, but as your piece suggests, he's done more than he's given credit for. Many of his initiatives have an air of inevitability about them, such as health care. These changes ARE going to happen and paradoxically, because he's been both intimately involved and hands-off!
I think you've nailed Obama's strategical mastery when it comes to political management. His ability to wait for a political wave or blunder by his opponents to provide an opening reminds me Asquith piloting the Parliament bill in 1911 or Baldwin and his India bill in thirties. He's also helped of course by the fact that southern strategies and polarisation have more or less put all the liberals and the liberal leaning in the broadest sense in the democratic camp and all the conservatives with the Republicans.
History is only written retroactively. My judgment is provisional. So is my readers'. But it will be fascinating to watch if we're right.