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Going the Distance: On and off the road with Barack Obama →

This is a wonderful look into President Obama’s thinking on various issues. It describes him as a very normal person, doing his best to satisfy the needs of the role he now fulfills. The comments on his foreign policy struck me most:

At the core of Obama’s thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs.

Such an interesting argument. This was written in 2014, but even then we knew about the daily drone attacks all throughout the Middle East. It is most interesting to contrast George W. Bush’s large mallet with Barack Obama’s small scalpel. When it comes to military intervention, he is very focused. He sees it as a complicated issue:

“Look, you wrestle with it,” Obama said. “And those who have questioned our drone policy are doing exactly what should be done in a democracy—asking some tough questions. The only time I get frustrated is when folks act like it’s not complicated and there aren’t some real tough decisions, and are sanctimonious, as if somehow these aren’t complicated questions.

When it comes to international politics and diplomacy, however, he is much more broad:

Obama, who has pressed Netanyahu to muster the political will to take risks on his own, thinks he can help “create a space”—that is the term around the White House—for forward movement on the Palestinian issue, whether he is around to see the result or not.

He sympathizes with the feelings of Reaganite “welfare state” critiques, but notes:

But I do think that some of the anti-government rhetoric, anti-tax rhetoric, anti-spending rhetoric that began before Reagan but fully flowered with the Reagan Presidency accelerated trends that were already existing, or at least robbed us of some tools to deal with the downsides of globalization and technology, and that with just some modest modification we could grow this economy faster and benefit more people and provide more opportunity.

You can really tell the President knows the limits of his power to make change, yet harnesses the great power he does yield in his current role to make a positive difference with an eye for the long-term:

“I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past,” he said. “But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we’re on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have.” The long view again. “But I think our decisions matter,” he went on. “And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn’t been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”