Walter Russell Mead: Obama’s Dark Night of the Soul

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Walter Russell Mead is Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. He blogs at]

Life keeps getting worse for President Obama. It is not just that the conservative press, which never liked him, has a new note of confidence and even joy as it pursues a quarry whose blood reporters think they can smell. It is not just that he lost control of Congress in the midterms. No: the mainstream, liberal press and the American left are deserting him now. The San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, and even Michael Moore have turned on the Messiah. “Take off your pink tutu!” Moore commanded the President on Bill Maher. Jeremiah Wright must feel vindicated down under the bus; now the rest of the left increasingly sees Obama as weak, opportunistic, and unprincipled.

We and the President were always likely to come to this point. The adulation lavished on a one-term senator of little life experience was not a good thing for anyone. For Obama, it fed an already enlarged self-esteem that had become grotesque by the inauguration. A cruelly accurate piece by Jonathan Last in The Weekly Standard highlights the ghastly series of intentional evocations of Lincoln that a delusionally imprudent White House team put forward in the flush of victory.

Important note to all future denizens of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first compare to Abraham Lincoln. Comparisons to Washington, Lincoln, or to either Roosevelt, if any, should come from other people, never from you or from anyone on your payroll — and preferably should come late in a presidential term, not when the incumbent still has that shiny new president smell....

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