We’re never going to agree on the legacy of a president. It’s such a huge job, the scope is so immense, and the country is chopped up into so many disparate factions that one person will never go down as unanimously “great.” We knew that already, but it grows clearer every cycle, as our lines-in-the-sand turn to trenches.
As for our current outgoing Commander-in-Chief, there will be books upon books written about his tenure. His failings and successes will be analyzed, cataloged, and debated for decades. One day, in calmer times, we’ll wrestle over drones and Guantanamo. But not yet. We need some distance and there are changes to be reckoned with. It’ll take time and pages. A few words on a winter morning can’t scratch the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
Especially because Barack Obama’s tenure provides a particularly large iceberg. Just the momentousness of being elected our first black president — what it meant for our increasingly diverse but racially troubled nation — can’t be overstated. Ta-Nehisi Coates‘s “My President Was Black” pays stunning tribute, but there are sure to be thousands more words written on the subject.
For now, no one is arguing that the Obama presidency was flawless. Even Obama the man, though notably scandal-free, probably has all sorts of personal failings. But there are things that can be said about him that might approach a sort of “absolute value” — qualities he’s consistently displayed which, while not in-an-of-themselves defining of a great presidency, did indeed have an impact on the state of our nation.
He’s nerdy. He’s cool. He’s genuine.