Obama the Great - if he does say so himself

President Barack Obama celebrated a bipartisan "season of progress' on Thursday at a year-end news conference a few hours after the Senate ratified an arms control treaty with Russia. (Dec. 22)
Thursday, December 23, 2010

It took President Obama fewer than 50 days to go from shellacking to swashbuckling.

Seven weeks earlier to the day, the president faced harsh questions about his leadership as he took responsibility for Democrats' loss of the House in the previous day's election. But the man who faced reporters Tuesday afternoon in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was treated by his questioners as a conquering colossus - and Obama didn't mind wearing those shoes.

"A lot of folks in this town predicted that, after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock," he said to a roomful of people who had predicted just that. "And instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people."

He bestowed superlatives on his accomplishments:

"The most productive post-election period we've had in decades."

"The most productive two years that we've had in generations."

"The most significant arms-control agreement in nearly two decades."

"The biggest upgrade of America's food-safety laws since the Great Depression."

"Al-Qaeda is more hunkered down than they have been since the original invasion of Afghanistan in 2001."

More! Most! Biggest! And when he wasn't praising his accomplishments, he was praising himself: "One thing I hope people have seen during this lame-duck, I am persistent. I am persistent. You know, if I believe in something strongly, I stay on it."

Careful, Mr. President. What got Obama in trouble in the first place were the extraordinarily high expectations that the nation had for his administration - and that Obama's campaign had encouraged. The humility forced on him by the Republicans' triumph in November served to focus Obama, leading him to cut a tax deal with the GOP that infuriated fellow Democrats but made possible the string of legislative achievements he rightly boasted about on Tuesday.

The frantic worries of recent weeks of a "failed one-term presidency" (as Katrina vanden Heuvel warned) were overstated. But now Obama's return to messianic status - his campaign-style event to sign the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal on Tuesday was held in the Interior Department auditorium to accommodate the huge and raucous crowd - risks unlearning the valuable lesson in humility.

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