After criticizing President Obama throughout his second term, I've reversed course and decided that he's a tremendous leader, one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history.
Perfection is too high of a bar to set for any man, or any president, but Obama has come close to clearing it. What stands between this president and Mount Rushmore?
Republicans — specifically, the stubborn extremists who control the House under the weak leadership of Speaker John Boehner. Gridlock, hyper-partisanship, and ineffective governance, those traits that make Washington so unpopular with voters, are singularly the fault of the GOP.
It is not Obama's fault; none of it. The president alone struggled to reach across party lines — to build relationship with Republicans, to empathize and understand their points of view, to find common ground on vexing national issues.
"Leadership" is too weak of a word for what Obama has brought to Washington after winning the presidency on a simple promise to change the culture of Washington. "I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations," he said during the 2008 campaign. "But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth."
Fact is, he got it done — all of it. Not only did he pull troops out of Iraq and avert an economic depression, the president tamed joblessness, reversed climate change, improved the nation's reputation abroad, turned a debt crisis into a budget surplus, and provided affordable health care to millions of Americans. Mission Accomplished.
Obama succeeded while fostering a bipartisan mood in Washington that began, actually, at the 2004 Democratic National Convention when he declared, "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is a United States of America."
Only a man of immense humility could achieve such greatness while constantly reminding the public of his own limitations. Obama's modesty confounded political reporters and other "Green Lanternists" — those who believe that presidential powers, in the hands of the right leader, are immense. Obama needed only a magical pen and phone.
Leadership, it is he.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.