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Americans Are Getting Graduation Goggles for Barack Obama

February 9, 2016, 6:14 PM UTC
US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington on January 28, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Larry DOWNING/Pool (Photo credit should read LARRY DOWNING/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Larry Downing — AFP via Getty Images

There’s a term called graduation goggles, made popular on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” It describes feeling nostalgic about people you went to high school with when you graduate, even though while you were in school you couldn’t stand them. It seems like the American public has a serious case of graduation goggles for one Barack Obama.

In less than one year, President Obama will pack up his things and leave the Oval Office. We still don’t know who he’ll be replaced by, but commentators and voters from all political backgrounds are already starting to miss the law professor from Chicago.

The embodiment of this is conservative writer David Brooks who penned a column for the New York Times titled “I Miss Barack Obama.” In it he frets that with Obama no longer involved in the national electoral discussion, there is less optimism and class involved in the proceedings:

But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

Now, many conservatives have lashed out at Brooks, and not without good reason — like a lot of what the columnist writes, it is a bit holier-than-thou and not exactly logically sound. (He praises Obama for being more moral than Hillary Clinton, ignoring the fact that Obama brought Clinton into his White House as Secretary of State.)

But liberals are getting nostalgic for the President too, even though they’ve often run away from him. A Politico story last month noted that on the campaign trail, Democratic presidential hopefuls were invoking Obama and praising his record.

A big part of it, perhaps, is the attitude Obama brought. He was young and hip, and he and his wife Michelle seemed like a genuinely good couple, the type you’d like to have over for dinner. Bernie Sanders, the current favorite of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, is more like your friend’s grandfather who talks to you in the back of the synagogue.

For Republicans, they’ll miss Obama as an easy target for red meat to toss to their base. Sure, they’ll do the same for Clinton or Sanders, but the right has never quite had someone like Barack Obama to kick around before.

So both sides, savor the last year with Obama. He’ll be off to either teach law or start a foundation after this, and it may take a while for another politician quite like him to come around again.