Obama Defends His Legacy: “These Are The Kinds Of Things You Learn”
In the BuzzFeed News interview with President Barack Obama, the president celebrates Obamacare and marriage equality, blasts Vladimir Putin and Staples, and sets down a marker for Hillary Clinton.
On Feb. 10, 2007, Barack Obama stood outside the state capitol in Springfield, Illinois, and announced his candidacy for president, promising a generational call to change the “ways of Washington,” gauzily promising a “future of endless possibility.” Reporters peered down at the senator from a building behind the sprawling, freezing crowd. “What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics,” Obama said, “the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.”
Eight years later — to the day — President Obama offered a spirited, sometimes combative defense of his six years in office, and of the ways in which the politics he sought to change have turned his presidency harsher, more tactical, and at times more frustrating than the crowd in Springfield hoped. Obama’s interview with BuzzFeed News Tuesday comes at a moment when he is feeling both the obvious satisfaction of forcing through major policy shifts, and the limits of his waning presidency. The interview was the latest in a series of conversations with media outlets that didn’t exist, or barely existed, when he first ran for president. And it was the latest effort to make himself, his message, and his appeal to young voters heard through a disorienting new media conversation that no public figure can control completely.
Obama cited frustrations from the intractability of urban poverty to the personality of Vladimir Putin. But he was most animated in his defense of what will be perhaps the two largest elements of his domestic policy legacy: the Affordable Care Act, which he passed at a high fiscal and higher political cost; and the arrival of true legal equality for gay and lesbian Americans. In the interview, he lacerated the CEO of the office supply giant Staples for avoiding providing health care to some workers, and he reflected on his own indirect path toward supporting the signature civil rights shift of his term, marriage equality.
“What I’m very proud of is to see how rapidly the country has shifted and maybe the small part that I’ve played, but certainly my Justice Department and others have played, in this administration, in getting to where we need to be,” he said. He said the Supreme Court’s refusal Monday to stop same-sex marriages in Alabama was a recognition that “having hit a critical mass of states that have recognized same-sex marriage — it doesn’t make sense for us to now have this patchwork system.”
Source: BuzzFeed | Ben Smith