For the past two weeks the US media has been pumping out admiring commentaries on the "comeback" of Barack Obama. As if on signal, the man widely portrayed before and immediately after the November midterm elections as presiding over a failing presidency is being depicted as the protagonist of a political tour de force that has turned defeat at the polls into a triumph of reform legislation.
The key to this remarkable turnabout, according to the media narrative, is Obama's turn to bipartisan collaboration with the Republicans, who will control the House of Representatives and have a larger presence in the Senate in the incoming 112th Congress. The stroke of genius that set the stage for ensuing legislative victories in the outgoing "lame duck" Congress was Obama's announcement December 6 of a deal with the Republican leadership in the Senate to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.
Many commentaries go even further, equating the measures enacted by Obama and the Democratic-led 111th Congress—fiscal stimulus, overhaul of health care, financial regulatory reform, repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't tell" in the military—with the major social reforms enacted under Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s.