Kenneth Weisbrode: Barack Obama has been compared to a variety of other U.S. presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter. But is he perhaps most like William Howard Taft? Historian Kenneth Weisbrode argues that a Taft-Obama comparison makes a good deal of sense.
Kenneth Weisbode: Gen. McChrystal is far from the first general to scoff at the White House. His fate echoes that of Generals MacArthur and McClellan but the comparison ends there, says historian Kenneth Weisbrode, because today there’s a greater reliance on the military in foreign relations.
Kenneth Weisbrode: Whom does Obama admire? He speaks often of Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Reagan. Future historians of today’s zeitgeist will note that the best-selling presidential biographies are now of Polk and Wilson. These presidents had in common the setting of a few clear goals and great persistence in achieving them, sometimes against tremendous odds. The results only became evident years after they left office.
Kenneth Weisbode: Where do presidents’ wives fit in? Some have wielded power openly, some have been powers behind the throne, some have been all but invisible. After a year, the current first lady’s role is far from clear.
Kenneth Weisbrode: America now faces a situation to which neither benign neglect nor grandstanding will suffice to distract it from its central task of underwriting a peaceful international system. For all that the “new world order” took on a slanderous meaning in certain quarters during the 1990s, it still seems to be what much of the globe wants.
We shouldn’t be surprised to have seen so much parochialism at Copenhagen. For all that international relations have matured over the past several decades with the spread of a global consciousness, some things just don’t change.
To be a reliable vicar, even for a president as cautious and deliberative as Barack Obama, she must still prove just how strong her backbone really is. She shouldn’t wait for the next crisis to do so. Now is the time to forge strong constituencies of her own at home and abroad, and to take those risks. At stake is not only her own reputation, but also that of her president and her country.