Fournier Repents: Put Obama on Rushmore

“One of the greatest presidents in U.S. history.”

US President Barack Obama smiles as he speaks before signing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC, on December 22, 2010. Obama signed a law allowing gays to serve openly in the military, repealing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy in a sweeping and historic shift for the US armed forces. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Ron Fournier
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Ron Fournier
April 1, 2014, 4:53 a.m.

After cri­ti­ciz­ing Pres­id­ent Obama throughout his second term, I’ve re­versed course and de­cided that he’s a tre­mend­ous lead­er, one of the greatest pres­id­ents in U.S. his­tory.

Per­fec­tion is too high of a bar to set for any man, or any pres­id­ent, but Obama has come close to clear­ing it. What stands between this pres­id­ent and Mount Rush­more?

Re­pub­lic­ans — spe­cific­ally, the stub­born ex­trem­ists who con­trol the House un­der the weak lead­er­ship of Speak­er John Boehner. Grid­lock, hy­per-par­tis­an­ship, and in­ef­fect­ive gov­ernance, those traits that make Wash­ing­ton so un­pop­u­lar with voters, are sin­gu­larly the fault of the GOP.

It is not Obama’s fault; none of it. The pres­id­ent alone struggled to reach across party lines — to build re­la­tion­ship with Re­pub­lic­ans, to em­path­ize and un­der­stand their points of view, to find com­mon ground on vex­ing na­tion­al is­sues.

“Lead­er­ship” is too weak of a word for what Obama has brought to Wash­ing­ton after win­ning the pres­id­ency on a simple prom­ise to change the cul­ture of Wash­ing­ton. “I face this chal­lenge with pro­found hu­mil­ity, and know­ledge of my own lim­it­a­tions,” he said dur­ing the 2008 cam­paign. “But I also face it with lim­it­less faith in the ca­pa­city of the Amer­ic­an people. Be­cause if we are will­ing to work for it, and fight for it, and be­lieve in it, then I am ab­so­lutely cer­tain that gen­er­a­tions from now, we will be able to look back and tell our chil­dren that this was the mo­ment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the job­less; this was the mo­ment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our plan­et began to heal; this was the mo­ment when we ended a war and se­cured our na­tion and re­stored our im­age as the last, best hope on earth.”

Fact is, he got it done — all of it. Not only did he pull troops out of Ir­aq and avert an eco­nom­ic de­pres­sion, the pres­id­ent tamed job­less­ness, re­versed cli­mate change, im­proved the na­tion’s repu­ta­tion abroad, turned a debt crisis in­to a budget sur­plus, and provided af­ford­able health care to mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans. Mis­sion Ac­com­plished.

Obama suc­ceeded while fos­ter­ing a bi­par­tis­an mood in Wash­ing­ton that began, ac­tu­ally, at the 2004 Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion when he de­clared, “There is not a lib­er­al Amer­ica and a con­ser­vat­ive Amer­ica — there is a United States of Amer­ica.”

Only a man of im­mense hu­mil­ity could achieve such great­ness while con­stantly re­mind­ing the pub­lic of his own lim­it­a­tions. Obama’s mod­esty con­foun­ded polit­ic­al re­port­ers and oth­er “Green Lan­tern­ists” — those who be­lieve that pres­id­en­tial powers, in the hands of the right lead­er, are im­mense. Obama needed only a ma­gic­al pen and phone.

Lead­er­ship, it is he.

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