Obama's more of a follower than a leader

One of the most widely cited observations in Maraniss’s biography, “Barack Obama: The Story,” is that he had a “determination to avoid life’s traps.” He refused to let circumstances box him in; craved room to maneuver; kept his options open. In college he floated between cultures and political and social groups, studiously avoiding commitment. In the Illinois State Senate, he stood out in part for the frequency with which he voted “present” rather than yea or nay. He wouldn’t be pinned or pigeonholed.

And now? He’s beholden to lawmakers’ whims, buffeted by global winds, as much a spectator as an agent of the most important developments around him, a leader of the free world who follows the news like the rest of us. Against Obama’s wishes and will, his attorney general is investigated and excoriated by a House panel. His jobs bill languishes. Egypt charts a once unexpected course, electing an Islamist president. The Syrian government pursues a bloody crackdown against its people, ignoring the Obama administration’s protests…

[T]he hell of his situation is its amalgam of full responsibility for so much and impotence in the face of most of it. I suppose that’s long been one definition of the presidency, but it has seldom fit as well as now. In the twilight of his first term, Obama is learning how unscripted history ultimately is. A second term may hinge on the nifty trick, not yet mastered, of projecting more command than he actually wields.