Barack Obama, who in 2009 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having done nothing, is now called a great man by some of his backers for having done not too much more. He was re-elected, but by millions of votes fewer than the last time — the first time a president won re-election while falling in favor relative to the opposite side.
Most people felt the country was on the wrong track and doubted things would get better. General Motors is (barely) alive but not getting better. Osama bin Laden is dead, but al Qaeda isn’t. His triumphs thus far don’t seem that triumphant. Carter he isn’t, but he isn’t Reagan, either. Put the plans for Mount Rushmore on hold.
Point No. 1 in the case made for greatness is that he stopped the panic from becoming a major depression. It’s not all that clear that he did. If the brakes were slammed, it was probably the TARP bill that did it.
The stimulus went to the president’s friends and did little to stir private-sector investments. Billions were lost on green energy projects, while he shut down the Keystone pipeline and waged war on coal and oil. Unemployment stayed under 9 percent, only because so many stopped looking for work altogether. “What does a president have to do these days to get his face chiseled into a mountainside?” asked Jill Lawrence, in a giddy piece called “Obama Has Already Cemented His Legacy.” Well, maybe a little bit better than that.