How power changed a president

James Crabtree in Prospect Magazine:

Obama One year on from his election victory, how should we judge President Barack Obama? He has passed a $787bn (£500bn) stimulus package and a $3.4 trillion budget, bailed out America’s floundering car makers, and launched landmark legislation to reform healthcare, tighten regulation on a crippled financial sector, and cut greenhouse gases. Against a backdrop of economic chaos and partisan division, and especially if some form of health reform passes by the end of the year, Obama’s early record will look impressive. It’s been a good start.

That said, a president who promised unity has also brought discord. The saner wings of the American right (and some Democrats) worry that his moderate tone hides policies that dangerously expand the grip of the state, and the depth of its debt. The less sane gather in the streets and howl about the road to socialism. Critics on the left, meanwhile, already see a once-in-a-generation missed opportunity. Obama has a thumping electoral mandate, and control of congress. Yet he stimulated the economy too little, and fluffed a perfect moment to bring in radical measures to take on America’s banks and health insurers. Behind these worries, doubts lurk about what the president stands for, and whether the “Obama-ism” implicit in his campaign can translate into governance. Put more simply: has Obama begun to change Washington, or has Washington begun to change him?

More here.