Obama begins to say goodbye

“In so many ways, he embodied America with all our gifts and all our flaws, in our restlessness and all our big dreams,” said the son of America and Africa alike, who wrote a best-seller about dreams.

Obama’s invocation of race as a divisive political force was consistent with his more open approach about the subject in his second term, but it also helps explain why, as Jonathan Chait detailed in New York magazine, it may be nearly impossible to judge his tenure within the current political environment, so freighted as it has been with questions about whether some of the animosity toward his presidency is rooted in skin color. And that some cooling via the passage of time might be necessary.

The president seems to understand this—and perhaps is counting on it, that given distance and an economic rebound, his achievements, most notably the health care law in which he has invested so much, will turn indelible once the daily trench warfare ends. But, as his rocky second term has illustrated, that is by no means the guaranteed outcome. The bloodshed in Syria, the threat to Ukraine, the uneven recovery, the never-ending threat of terrorism, and yes, the Affordable Care Act’s consequences, all may batter his record to the point where it becomes unsalvageable.