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The present is the wrong time for historical perspective

Caricature of SteveJournalist Joe Klein, writing in Foreign Affairsconcedes a danger but then proceeds to stumble headlong into that very abyss—the tendency for purported expert observers to rush to judgment.

I believe that a credible, balanced account of America’s political leaders and their legacy is possible only after contemporaries—with their emotional reactions and ideological myopia—have passed from the scene. A new generation—separated by time and personal experience—is better able to evaluate the successes and failures of our presidents and world events.

As a child of the 1960s, President Nixon, the Vietnam War and the cultural revolution of that era, I still am too close to those events and still harbor too strong feelings to clearly see their impact.

Historians born after that time will do a better job of putting persons and events in proper context.

So it is with Barack Obama. Mr. Klein’s opinions are tainted by his exposure to current winds. His obvious admiration for Mr. Obama occludes his ability to measure the former president in a dispassionate manner.

Klein confuses Obama’s race (black) with ethnicity (white-middle class-cosmopolitan upbringing). Although he acknowledges the president’s domestic and foreign policies successes and failures. He, as I, have been exposed to too much toxic rhetoric and non-factual analysis to give Obama the careful measure of historical scrutiny he deserves.

Yes, journalism is the first draft of history. And Mr. Klein’s commentary is an interesting rewrite. But it is not and cannot be the definitive portrait of Mr. Obama.

More than 150 years later, historians continue to examine Abraham Lincoln for new insight into the man, his presidency and legacy.   Such studies from the advantage of passing time will provide future Americans a truer evaluation of President Barack Obama.


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