President Obama has done next to nothing to build confidence in government

President Obama has done next to nothing to build confidence in government

It’s happened by this point in every modern two-term presidency: If we weren’t sick of the guy to start with, we certainly are by now. What once seemed like roguish charm, or bracing surety, or nuanced intelligence, has curdled into self-indulgence, or arrogance, or passivity. Voters punish the president in the midterms; congressmen investigate him; political journalists, eager to cultivate sources in the coming campaigns, save all their nice adjectives for the presidents-in-waiting, and their aides.

But none of that is going to stop me from piling on, too. If a few things break Barack Obama’s way, history may well judge his presidency quite successful. As presidencies recede, we tend to focus on a few big achievements or failures, and Obama might eventually be seen to have staved off a depression; to have established a national health-care safety net; to have patiently set relations with China and Iran on a sounder footing (for details on the latter, see Robert D. Kaplan’s dispatch on page 17). Yet there’s one area where Obama has clearly failed so far: he’s done next to nothing to build confidence in government itself.

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