Barack Obama is a serious man. Yes, he likes to golf, and yes, he ran a campaign with cutesy Facebook pictures and seemingly inane Flash slideshows like “Life of Julia.” No, he does not seem interested in the mechanics of legislation, nor does he seem adept at negotiation. But the weird condescension his opponents display toward him is ludicrously wrongheaded. They seem eager to believe he is a lightweight, and he is not. Obama is very possibly a world-historical political figure, and until those who oppose him come to grips with this fact, they will get him wrong every time.
The common idea during his first term—peddled by, among others, Mitt Romney as he sought a way to criticize the president that would not offend too many people—that Obama “is a nice guy but in over his head” is entirely backward. Barack Obama almost certainly isn’t a nice guy (even his admiring biographers are consistent in describing his friendlessness and icy hauteur).
And you should only be in over your head so much. After a single statewide election, Obama has now won absolute majorities in two successive national tallies with a combined vote total of 135 million. He has much of the media in his pocket; he has his party in his thrall; he escapes responsibility for failures that would sink other politicians; he muscled the most important piece of legislation in decades into law; and with a 20 percent increase in federal spending levels, he has ended the political age in which a Democrat would say “the era of big government is over” (Bill Clinton, 1996). That isn’t luck. It’s skill. Rare skill. Political genius of a kind.