So Barack Obama isn’t the first president to fail to meet expectations — and he won’t be the last. But he has come to embody something else, too: the risks and travails of reaching for greatness in the presidency without the crisis, character and capacity necessary to achieve it.
“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans,” the new president declared in his 2009 inaugural address to a 1.8 million-strong crowd on the Mall. “. . . What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”
From pledging an Earth-moving transformation, Obama has been reduced to hitting singles and getting his lonely paragraph right . After drawing early comparisons to Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy all rolled into one, Obama has fallen so low that journalists wonder whether Jimmy Carter is not a more appropriate parallel.