How Barack Obama Lost His Idealism

Ryan Lizza got ahold of "hundreds of pages of internal White House documents" to write his in-depth look at President Barack Obama in this week's New Yorker,  which tells the story of a man whose grand ideas of bipartisan cooperation turned out to be unworkable. 

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Ryan Lizza got ahold of "hundreds of pages of internal White House documents" to write his in-depth look at President Barack Obama in this week's New Yorker,  which tells the story of a man whose grand ideas of bipartisan cooperation turned out to be unworkable. The memos, which Politico's Dylan Byers calls "the talk of the town and the Twitterverse," detail a president who tried to gain the favor of the top conservative opinion-makers in Washington, and wound up one of their top targets. In describing the mistakes Obama made in his first three years in office, Lizza writes, "he clung too long to his vision of post-partisanship, even in the face of a radicalized opposition whose stated goal was his defeat." But once Obama got over that vision, he mastered the cynical side of  politics pretty quickly, including sacrificing some progress on the deficit because he couldn't get credit for it, Lizza writes: "When, in 2009, he was presented with the windfall pot of thirty-five billion dollars that he could spend on one of his campaign priorities or use for deficit reduction, Obama wrote, 'I would opt for deficit reduction, but it doesn’t sound like we would get any credit for it.' " Still, Lizza writes, "the private Obama is close to what many people suspect: a President trying to pass his agenda while remaining popular enough to win reëlection."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.