Thursday, November 08, 2012

President Obama now runs for his place in history

Robert Caro
For three years, Obama has had dinner with selected American historians, allowing him to ask probling questions.

As one attendee now comments, he is focused on his role in history:

“He has only one thing to run for: a place in history,” Robert Caro, another guest, said in an interview.

 During these dinners Obama revealed his focus on the longer term, rather than the minutiae of day to day politics:

In their dinners together, which form a mini-history of the Obama presidency, the scholars could see the urgency and seriousness that he brought to his role, as well as his frustration that others did not see him and his priorities as he did. He seemed like a leader whose internal clock never quite matched that of the political system, who preferred to think in terms of the sweep of years rather than of the tick of hours or days.
 Mr. Obama expressed impatience with his “inability to get people to think long term,” said H. W. Brands of the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s hard to make a case for solutions to problems where you’re not going to feel either the problem or the solution,” he recalled Mr. Obama saying.

That was why the president seemed to relish those dinners, the historians surmised: they were an antidote to the cable television news shows and moment to moment political wrangling he disparaged. Each time, he would go around the table, asking the largely left-tilting group how he was doing and what he could learn from the men they had studied, according to interviews with eight biographers who attended.

This is a man with an intense wish to write his name large in the history of his country:

The president was coolly eyeing American history in order to carve his own grand place in it, the guests said in interviews later. “It was almost as if he was writing his own history book about himself,” said David M. Kennedy, a professor at Stanford University. 

Becoming the 44th president of the United States, or even the first African-American to hold the post, had never been enough for Barack Obama. 

Just two years after arriving in the Senate, he spoke unabashedly of becoming one of the greatest presidents, a transformative figure like Abraham Lincoln or Franklin D. Roosevelt who would heal the country’s divisions, address its most critical problems and turn Americans in a hopeful new direction.

The next four years will be whirlwind ones.

If I had to bet, I would bet that he would indeed be a transformative president.

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