This TNR article got me thinking. On the one hand, it’s probably a good idea for Democrats to talk up Obama’s legacy as a restrained, realist foreign policy president. That’s largely how the media portrayed him, after all, and it’s a good idea for the same reason that Republicans tie all their ideas to Reagan. On the other hand, just like a lot of those Reagan associations, it’s not really true at all. The president who backed infinite Saudi bombing of Yemen was not really a dove or any sort of foreign policy idealist really, and the only real peace-y element to his foreign policy was nonproliferation. He himself badly damaged that by changing Libya’s regime. (That Trump will finish it off altogether soon by wrecking the Iran nuclear deal is not his fault, though it is poignant.) Mostly he just did whatever got more critics off his back, unless it was something that could be a tentpole legacy item. Usually, doing the hawkish thing got more critics off his back. On occasion, it was the dovish thing, as it was with Syria. Given how fumbling and flat-footed he was when the hardliners came back with a vengeance after the emergence of ISIS, I suspect he thought that Iraq had discredited them for good, but this could be wrong. It would explain a lot, though.

Overall, it’s probably better to print the legend, at least in the short term. Obama’s still very popular and well-respected among Democrats. I have no issue with temporarily forgetting his record and pretending it was all Iran deals and openings to Cuba and not bombing Syrians if it moves the needle in the right direction! Eventually, though, we need to remember the facts and deal with them.

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