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Obama: The Evolution of a President by The Washington Post [Excerpt]

Obama: The Evolution of a President by The Washington Post [Excerpt]

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Published by Diversion Books
Barack Obama arrived in Washington in 2008 symbolizing the political change he promised on the campaign trail during his historic presidential victory. But in many ways, Washington changed Obama more than Obama changed Washington. This is the story of how the idealist of the 2008 campaign evolved into a hard-nosed pragmatist, shelving his promise of a new kind of politics to fight increasingly partisan budget battles and run a bare-knuckles re-election campaign.

Through a series of articles and photographs published by The Washington Post, this book outlines the change in his political personality during his four years in office, and describes his engagement with some of the most challenging issues he confronted during his time in office – and what his approach may mean for a second term should he win in November.
Barack Obama arrived in Washington in 2008 symbolizing the political change he promised on the campaign trail during his historic presidential victory. But in many ways, Washington changed Obama more than Obama changed Washington. This is the story of how the idealist of the 2008 campaign evolved into a hard-nosed pragmatist, shelving his promise of a new kind of politics to fight increasingly partisan budget battles and run a bare-knuckles re-election campaign.

Through a series of articles and photographs published by The Washington Post, this book outlines the change in his political personality during his four years in office, and describes his engagement with some of the most challenging issues he confronted during his time in office – and what his approach may mean for a second term should he win in November.

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Published by: Diversion Books on Oct 10, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/06/2014

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INTRODUCTION
 
Barack Obama arrived in Washington in 2008 fully confident he could deliver on the
“change you can believe in” rallying cry of his historic presidential campaign.
 In many ways, however, Washington has changed Obama more than Obama haschanged Washington.The most significant change of the last four years may be the evolution that occurredwithin Obama himself. The idealist of the 2008 campaign has become a hard-nosed pragmatist after a series of bruising battles with Republicans in Congress. The man whoonce promised a new kind of politics has become a partisan warrior running a bare-knuckles re-
election campaign. It’s a metamorphosis that has cheered many of his most
ardent supporters, who long hoped for a stronger advocate for liberal causes. But it hasalso disillusioned many Americans who believed he could bring the country together andtransform Washington into a place where problem solving overcame party politics.During his campaign, Obama promised to end the war in Iraq. He pledged to fix the
country’s broken health
-care system. And in the final weeks of his campaign, he vowedurgently to find the tools to prevent another Great Depression. But more than anything,his aspiration to create a post-partisan politics gave a special lift to his candidacy andcreated outsize expectations for his presidency.The call for change, for a new politics shorn of bitterness and red-blue divisions had
long been at the heart of Obama’s political persona. He wove that message into every
important speech of the campaign, from his announcement in February 2007 all the wayto his inauguration speech. By then, however, Democrats and Republicans on CapitolHill were already at odds over an economic stimulus program. Republicans call thestimulus battle the original sin of the Obama presidency. White House officials mark it asthe moment when hope and change collided with Republican intransigence.During his first year in office, Obama saw his approval ratings sink and the loss of theDemocrats filibuster-proof 60-seat Senate majority with the triumph of Scott Brown (R)in Massachusetts. But in March 2010, the president managed to rally the troops and passhistoric health-care reform legislation expanding coverage to 32 million Americans andoutlawing certain insurance company practices like refusing to cover those with
 preexisting conditions. “This is what change looks like,” Obama proclaimed post
-vote.But the president headed into 2010 with several hurdles to implementing hislegislative agenda, which included a major financial regulatory reform package and a jobs bill. At the start of that year, he assumed a more populist tone and proposed aspending freeze in his 2011 budget for discretionary spending, along with a tax on big banks to calm public furor over large compensation packages.Though those initiatives seemed designed to channel a middle course, they angered
the president’s liberal base, which wanted the public option included in the health
-care
measure. Obama’s left
-flank was also irate about a December 2009 decision to send30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
 
 
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The president paid in the 2010 midterm elections that saw the rise of the tea party andthe loss of the House majority to Republicans and the seizing of six Senate seats by theGOP.Despite those setbacks, the former community activist and one-term Illinois senator 
has already ushered in change in a variety of ways: through his race as the nation’s first
African-American president, through all the programs launched by his mammothstimulus bill, through his executive actions on education and immigration and through his potentially revolutionary political tactics that involved reaching out to average citizensthrough the Internet in unprecedented ways.His slow evolution on the propriety of gay marriage led to a significant milestone for gay rights.He has been less successful in shepherding change in the Mideast and Iran, but hisadministration can point to several successes in foreign policy after four years, includingthe death of Osama Bin Laden.But it was his inability to enact transformational change during the debt ceilingnegotiations in the summer of 2011 that really changed Obama himself. The actions of Obama and his staff during that period best reflect the grand ambitions and theshortcomings of his entire presidency.Like earlier policy battles, the negotiations to keep the country from falling off afiscal cliff revealed a divided figure, a man who remained aloof from a Congress wherehe once served and that he now needed. He was caught between his own aspirations for historical significance and his inherent political caution. And he was unable to bridge a political divide that had only grown wider since he took office, underscoring the gulf  between the way he campaigned and the way he had governed.In the end, that brief effort not only illuminated pitfalls in the road he had takenduring the previous three years but also directed him down a different, harder-edged,more overtly partisan path that is now defining his reelection campaign.What happened during those days in July when the grand bargain was almost reached, but not quite, changed him for good. He no longer seemed a divided man.His goal after that summer was unequivocal: to win a second term.

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