To many who were feverishly devoted to Obama’s candidacy four years ago, what was most exciting wasn’t just the idea that American voters could elect a black man. It was the idea that we could elect — and be represented by — someone who was unapologetically intellectual. But in the current political climate, intellectual can too often equal ineffectual. Thanks to a system that’s broken by partisanship and pandering to the lowest common denominator, being in politics — even being the president — may have less to do with holding your ground than holding your nose.
It’s hard not to come away from the Vanity Fair article without feeling, strangely enough, that the White House is holding Obama back. The gulf between the brilliant young man who wanted to change the world and the stymied president who can barely pass a piece of legislation, the cosmopolitan wearer of the sarong and the lock-step wearer of the flag pin, suggests he could have served the American people far more effectively if he weren’t bogged down being the leader of the free world.