About a quarter way into Jeffrey Goldberg’s intimate profile of President Obama, Goldberg mentions German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “one of the few foreign leaders Obama respects.”
Thirty-five years ago, The Atlantic ran one of the most famous interviews in the history of journalism: Bill Greider’s “The Education of David Stockman.” Goldberg’s interviews deserve to become equally famous, perhaps under the heading: “The Disappointment of Barack Obama.” For the dominant theme of these interviews is that we, all of us, have grievously let down the president.
Obama, concludes Goldberg, “has found world leadership wanting: global partners who often lack the vision and the will to spend political capital in pursuit of broad, progressive goals, and adversaries who are not, in his mind, as rational as he is.” The good news is that these inadequate partners and purblind adversaries will soon suffer their comeuppance: “What they don’t understand is that history is bending in his direction.”
The trouble is that this historical consummation seems to be rather slow in arriving. Across Europe and the Middle East, old friends and new worry that under President Obama the United States has lost its bearings and its will. “I think I believe in American power more than Obama does,” Goldberg quotes the King of Jordan as saying—and he is not alone. Obama is obviously aware of the growing level of concern that he has set the United States adrift. The president insists that the United States, not its geopolitical rivals, continues to set the agenda for G20 meetings. When it comes to clerical tasks, the U.S.A. apparently remains No. 1. And to those impatient with the gaps in his leadership, Obama replies with scorn: They’re mad at him? No! He’s the one who’s mad at them!