I won't soon forget the observation by Peggy Noonan back in 2009 that Pres. Obama needed to bring into focus his sentence.
.... I think at bottom his problems come down to this: The Sentence. And the rough sense people have that he’s not seeing to it.
The Sentence comes from a story Clare Boothe Luce told about a conversation she had in 1962 in the White House with her old friend John F. Kennedy. She told him, she said, that “a great man is one sentence.” His leadership can be so well summed up in a single sentence that you don’t have to hear his name to know who’s being talked about. “He preserved the union and freed the slaves,” or, “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped to win a World War.” You didn’t have to be told “Lincoln” or “FDR.”
She wondered what Kennedy’s sentence would be. She was telling him to concentrate, to know the great themes and demands of his time and focus on them. It was good advice....
.... New White Houses are always ardent for change, for breakthroughs. They want the sentence even when they don’t know the sentence exists, even when they think it’s a paragraph. The Obama people want, “He was the president who gave all Americans health care,” and, “He lessened income inequality,” and, “He took over a failed company,” and other things. They wants a jumble of sentences and do a jumble of things. But an administration about everything is an administration about nothing.
Mr. Obama is not seeing his sentence. He’s missing it. This is the sentence history has given him:
“He brought America back from economic collapse and kept us strong and secure in the age of terror.”
That’s all anybody wants. It’s all that’s needed.
Since none of that has worked out - and indeed our economy continues to collapse and we are weaker and less secure in the world than ever - the problem of The Sentence becomes even more urgent, especially given that this is no longer a "New White House," but one entering its final months.
Instead of the sentence "history has given him," all that Obama has given us is his "relentless use of the vertical pronoun" and all the variations thereof.
I was just reading Michael Barone at Rasmussen:
"This is my last election," Obama said. "After my election, I have more flexibility."
.... Note Obama's use of the first-person adjective. Most American politicians speak of "the" election. Obama calls it "my" election. This sort of personalization comes naturally to a leader whose first public reaction to the death of a Florida teenager was, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
If the country (and the world) survive this Odious Occupier of the Oval Office, history will have No Sentence for his presidency. He will leave behind only a trilogy of personal pronouns, I - Me - Mine.
These, his most memorable words do not - and cannot - be built into a sentence and yet, their significance is still quite stunning.