Obama Agonistes: The New Yorker Sums Up The Obama Legacy

 
on January 19 2014 4:15 PM
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    U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency from the Justice Department in Washington on Jan. 17, 2014. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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    President Barack Obama Reuters
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While the Obama presidency has three full years to go before the torch is passed, in political terms, the gig is almost up. It’s that anxiety that drives the lengthy David Remnick-penned article just published in the New Yorker.  Titled “On and Off the Road With Barack Obama,” the more than 16,000-word piece is a summary of the president’s legacy, from a review of his core beliefs (even-handed to a fault) to his personal style (aloof) to his legislative accomplishments (jury still out).

Remnick, editor of the New Yorker since 1998 and an Obama biographer, clearly has the kind of access that allows for juicy quote-mongering. Here are a few of the most compelling:

On the role of race in his presidency:

“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President. Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”

On the dangers of playing pro football:

“I would not let my son play pro football … These [athletes], they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”

On the complexities of “states’ rights”:

“… I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans. The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy.”

On the legalization of marijuana:

[The drug is less dangerous than alcohol] “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy … Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties … We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”

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