The Week (US)

Obama, too good for America

- Matthew Continetti

America has “let Barack Obama down,” said Matthew Continetti. In a new memoir, former White House aide Ben Rhodes describes how President Obama cycled between bouts of anger, self-doubt, and resignatio­n after Donald Trump’s shocking election victory. Rhodes recalls Obama asking aloud, “What if we were wrong?” and adding, “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.” His smug condescens­ion toward the tribes of flyover country, of course, helped fuel the conservati­ve populism that Trump rode to the White House. Obama was wrong about a lot of other things too, like ramming an unpopular health-care bill through Congress, ceding Syria to Russia, and pushing Joe Biden out of the way so Hillary Clinton could run to succeed him. Rhodes quotes Obama as musing, “Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early.” Too early for what? “Fundamenta­lly transformi­ng America?” Yes, perhaps he was too early for that, given that half the country didn’t agree with him. Poor Obama. “A paradigmat­ic liberal,” he was certain that progress toward his preferred policies was inevitable and irreversib­le. At least he can take comfort in telling himself that he was simply “too enlightene­d, sophistica­ted, mature for his time.”

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