Barack Obama is running up against a lot of unrealistic expectations in 2012, from the starry visions of his most fervid supporters to the myth that any president can, through persuasiveness or fiat, produce exactly the economic results that he desires. He’s also battling an opponent who’s creating unrealistic expectations of his own, remaking himself to satisfy whichever opportunity arises.
In such an atmosphere, Obama can’t argue too strongly for himself; he mustn’t sound as if he’s telling Americans to be satisfied with where the country is now. And his supporters must acknowledge that the economic recovery is coming slowly. But such a mixed assessment isn’t the proper verdict on a presidency that began with the nation on the verge of a depression. Nor does it capture the promise of his second term.