In his most recent colloquy with the president, David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, noted that in the Oval Office “you could hear, between every long pause that Obama took, the ticking of a grandfather clock.” Could you ever! The clock is ticking on this administration, and Mr. Obama knows it.
In 2007 he said, “I have no desire to be one of those Presidents who are just on the list—you see their pictures lined up on the wall. I really want to be a President who makes a difference.” He has made a difference, but often his critics on the right and on the left have trouble recognizing it. Conservatives tend to taunt him both as a tyro who is in way over his head, and as an Alinskyite master who is rapidly subverting the republic. They don’t seem to notice the contradictions in those indictments.
What Obama has accomplished is to move American politics as far leftward as he could, wrecking—or more politely, transforming—American health care, foreign policy, and constitutional norms in ways that will be difficult to reverse. He’s in no danger of barely making “the list.” If it’s not overturned, for example, the Affordable Care Act assures him fame, however grudging. Most of his impatient critics on the left, now busily denouncing Obamacare as a sellout, will sing its praises when, as eventually will happen, conservatives return to power. And if the monstrosity is overturned, it assures him infamy, which is better than what he fears most, namely, obscurity.