|US Soldier in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan/Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images|
Most presidents start wondering—or, more often, worrying—about their “legacy” well into their first term. Or, if they have a second term, they worry even more feverishly about what posterity will think of them. Obama need not wonder about his legacy, even this early. It is already fixed, and in one word: Afghanistan. He took on what he made America’s longest war and what may turn out to be its most disastrous one.
It is time for me to break a silence I have observed for over a year, against my better judgment. On June 30, 2009, I and eight other historians were invited to a dinner with President Obama and three of his staffers, to discuss what history could teach him about conducting the presidency. I was asked shortly after by several news media what went on there, and I replied that it was off the record. I have argued elsewhere that the imposition of secrecy to insure that the president gets “candid advice” is a cover for something else—making sure that what is said about the people’s business does not reach the people. But I went along this time, since the president said that he wanted this dinner to be a continuing thing, and I thought that revealing its first contents would jeopardize the continuation of a project that might be a source of information for him.
(click here to read the full text of Garry Wills's essay on the New York Review of Books website)