Trending Topics

As Chicago Pushes to Host Obama Library, Talk Turns to President’s Legacy

As the jockeying between Chicago, New York and Honolulu heats up to be the home of the Barack Obama presidential library, commentators are already starting to sift through the president’s tenure and talk about the Obama legacy — particularly since it seems less likely that he will be able to accomplish anything major in his second term.

Ironically, the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia primary by Tea Party favorite David Brat was likely the hammered nail shutting down any hope that Obama will be able to push through any major legislation in the next 2 1/2 years. Cantor was hammered by Brat for his possible willingness to compromise with Obama over immigration reform, so the message sent to Republicans seems clear: Don’t even talk about compromise with Obama. Ever.

Obama’s team has appointed a three-person panel, including Obama’s buddy Martin Nesbitt, that will consider the different proposals to host the presidential library and announce a decision in early 2015.

Chicago — the city where the president grew into a man, started his career, met his wife and started his family — is considered the likely winner of the library sweepstakes over the city where he was born and raised (Honolulu) and where he went to college and got his first job (New York). According to the Chicago Tribune, the Nesbitt panel will be analyzing five Chicago proposals: Three from the city’s universities, including the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught constitutional law; another is from a community group, and the fifth from a private real estate magnate developer.

“You and I know that a library on the South Side would be a homecoming for the Obamas, who met in Chicago and whose work on social justice, economic empowerment and educational advancement started there,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president’s first chief of staff, wrote in an appeal letter to Nesbitt, making the case for the poor neighborhood where Obama worked as a community organizer.

The leading contender to design the Obama library is possibly David Adjaye, 47, a British architect who rose to fame designing homes for famous Brits in the 1990s and who recently was chosen to design the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, a museum of black history being built less than a mile from the White House. Adjaye was born in Tanzania, and his father was a Ghanaian diplomat, according to the Chicago Tribune, which reports that if selected he would be the first non-American to design a presidential library.

But while the library is being considered, the Obama legacy is being battered right now in Iraq, “where U.S.-trained units in Iraq are dropping their weapons and fleeing far inferior al-Qaeda forces at first contact,” writes columnist Edward Luce in the Financial Times.

“Even Baghdad looks vulnerable,” Luce writes. “Talk about being mugged by reality. On paper the job of U.S. commander-in-chief is the most powerful in the world. In practice, your power to change things is waning yet there is no limit on your ability to take the blame. To repeat: what sane person could want the job?”

“Obama has all the drones and F-22 fighter jets he needs to strike whatever targets he wants,” Luce continues. “But experience has taught him the limits of warfare from the skies. Mike Tyson, retired U.S. boxer, once said that everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face. Mr. Obama’s plan was to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and he stuck to it. As he set out in his recent West Point speech, he also plans, where possible, to replace U.S. military engagement with diplomacy and economic statecraft. And, of course, he had a dream to replace America’s red state/blue state division with a post-partisan U.S. that worked together to solve problems. All of these hopes are now repeatedly punching him in the face. Little surprise, then, that he sounds wistful about what it is to be in the loneliest job in the world.”


Back to top