This time about 12 years from now, President Tagg Romney will, with a mixture of exasperation and amusement, begin signing into law an unending series of symbolic measures: The legislation renaming post offices, airports, federal buildings, parks, warships, overseas bases, drone flotillas, and more after the sainted former President Barack Obama.
Obama’s partisans would have made a case for his greatness even if he had only been a one-term president: The symbolism of his race; the era-ending slaying of Bin Laden; the sweep of health care legislation; the success in avoiding the abyss of the financial crisis. But there would have been a good case, too, for treating him as an interesting footnote of a president: He cleaned up George W. Bush’s messes, but went too far. The Affordable Care Act was a bit of an over-reach, swiftly repealed; the recovery credited to President Romney.
Now we are in Reagan territory, and in the hall of statues in the American imagination that includes, this century, probably only FDR and maybe JFK and Teddy besides. Obama’s best interpreter, Andrew Sullivan, made that case last fall: “If Obama wins, to put it bluntly, he will become the Democrats’ Reagan. The narrative writes itself. He will emerge as an iconic figure who struggled through a recession and a terrorized world, reshaping the economy within it, passing universal health care, strafing the ranks of al -Qaeda, presiding over a civil-rights revolution, and then enjoying the fruits of the recovery.”