It is not entirely Mr Obama’s fault that he became the vessel into which liberals all over the world poured their fantasies. Of course, like any politician, he pumped up expectations when running for office. But when Obama-mania really took off in 2008, it swiftly moved into a realm beyond reason. What was candidate Obama meant to say to the 200,000 Berliners who turned out to cheer him that year – “Go home guys, this is silly”? When the new president was given the Nobel Peace Prize, simply for existing, all he could do was graciously accept.
It is perfectly legitimate to argue that Mr Obama should have done more to cut back the rapidly growing secret state that he inherited when he took office. The combination of a “war on terror” and the new world of “big data” has created possibilities and pressures – and Mr Obama may have made some wrong calls in response. Yet the US president has had to balance a variety of pressures – including the continuing existence of a terrorist threat and the entrenched power of the intelligence world.
Mr Obama was living in a real universe, full of hard choices. It was his overheated critics who lived in a fantasy world.