As Barack Obama contends for a second term in office, two conflicting narratives of his presidency have emerged. Is he a skillful political player and policy visionary--a chess master who always sees several moves ahead of his opponents? Or is he politically clumsy and out of his depth--a pawn overwhelmed by events, at the mercy of a second-rate staff and of the Republicans?
James Fallows' recent Atlantic cover story, " Obama, Explained," examines Obama's first term in office.
"And for those who supported [Obama] the first time, as I did? To me, the evidence suggests that given a second term, he would have a better chance of becoming the figure so many people imagined," Fallows " wrote in his Atlantic story .
Fallows was also on NPR to discuss the article.
"If there is a main lesson I tried to convey in this article, it is that every president fails, and every president starts out his first term not knowing many of the things that are most important about doing the job," he said on NPR with Guy Raz.
Fallows main question is much harder to answer than you'd expect. It was interesting to hear that Fallows thought he would get an interview with Obama, but had to change his piece when he wasn't able to speak to the president.
Kerri will talking to James Fallows in the 10:00 hour of The Daily Circuit. Read what he had to say in Obama Explained.
Fallows says Obama has an "unwavering appearance." Does that make you feel that he is in control or lacks passion/
I wish that the President would do more of the news conferences in the White House briefing room. It seems like there is more of a back and forth with the media, which lends itself to a more authentic discussion of an issue (Clinton did lots of these ones).
Kerri's guest James Fallows.
Rick from Apple Valley says "President Obama strikes me as the type who lets his opponents talk down about him and lets them fall to their own absurd claims."
Why do we talk so much about how the President has done without mentioning the complete failure of Congress? What confuses me more than anything is that the entire discussion seems to be based on how Obama has performed in the past four years. Every news outlet is guilty of it, including NPR.
Yet, it seems that the biggest issue we are facing is Congressional intransigence and unwillingness to compromise among Republicans. You can't govern effectively when the goal of the other party is to defeat you in the next election and not to do what is best for the country. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE discuss this because it is a far more important discussion to have.
If he is a grand chessmaster and not a pawn, then maybe its time to see some of his checkmate moves before its all campaign mode. Absent those moves, he is looking like more of a pawn.
Obama's qualities in his first term needs to be divided into two chronological parts: his first two years ('09 - '10) when the dems had majorities in both houses of congress, and his latest two years ('11 - '12) when congress turned over largely to Republican control.
That very turnover in the 2010 election indicates he was not adept at campaigning reassurance to the public at large that he was leading effectively (though it seems to me he was).
@KerriMPR He is a master chess player.Two steps ahead.How many times now have we seen the Repubs in a corner?McCain's quote says it all.
Mary M, please explain who exactly Obama is a pawn of.
That metaphor seems to be used a lot surrounding politics but it doesn't really seem like Obama is being controlled by anyone, he just seems to be stuck in an awful political situation.
@KerriMPR Still a strong supporter of #PresidentObama - pragmatic chessmaster, and will go down in history as such!
Keeping with the chess analogy, Obama is the Queen. He's versatile, has lots of different moves, and can be dangerous to his opponents. However, he's still a chess piece who has to follow the rules of the game.
Chessmaster, current poll says the only Republican, at the moment, who can get with 5% of Obama's number is an un named contender.
I think that Obama had all the moves at his disposal when he had huge majorities in Congress. He should have been the chessmaster at that time on the economy.
President Obama is a chess master only to the extent he can lead his party to a majority in both houses of Congress this year. If not, he'll be the king always trying to avoid checkmate.
Obama seems like a chessmaster who is playing for the vistory of entire country, not of his own party. He seems to me to be a pragmatic big-picture thinker, which is somethign that people focusing on the Democrat vs Republican narrative seem to overlook.
@Luke You've hit the nail on the HEAD!! Congress is such a different animal than it has historically been - Ted Kennedy was the last of the Old Guard, and it would benefit all of us if they would go back to the way things used to be. Friends off the floor, tough but respectful on the floor. Why has it become "okay" for the GOP to publicly state and work for, at any cost, making a sitting President a one-termer?
Master or pawn? More like a rook. Hardly a master but he's got a few tricks up his sleeve.
As a physician we frequently create the illusion of treatment while the body heals itself. Obama appears to be a master of that technique.
@Mark H. Check out The American Presidency Project's archive of presidential conferences.
I don't think that Obama is a pawn or a chessmaster; I would put him into the category of apprentice in training. Obama does not seem to be controlled by anyone or protecting any major interests but he is slowly learning the game. Specifically he is learning how to deal with new levels of intransigence. Think about the payroll tax cut. Obama was able to turn the Republicans into the party that wanted to raise taxes during a fragile economy, what an amazing political win! This is not something that would have happened two years ago, at least I personally don't see it being possible. Maybe as Nick said in an earlier comment he is the queen, able to make any move but still fully controlled by the rules of the game (and those rules are a little different than what I believe Obama expected).
I read the comments and believe you have some very insightful listeners. I agree with nearly all, and mostly agree with Luke, who mentioned the utter failure of the Congress in this most recent term.