As President Barack Obama gets closer to the end of his second term in office, more Americans appreciate the job he has done.
A Gallup poll earlier this month shows his favorability is on the rise and he is now the most popular American politician. In fact, Obama is more popular than President Ronald Reagan was during his final year in office.
Now, it appears that Obama will cement his legacy with a trip on May 27 to Hiroshima, at the site where the United States first used an atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city.
Among historians, the debate about the use of nuclear weapons against the Japanese has remained very much alive. Some believe the bombs were intended as a demonstration to the Soviet Union of U.S. capability at the dawn of the Cold War.
The president hopes that acknowledging the horror that took place at the dawn of the nuclear age will spur the conversation he wants to have about nuclear proliferation and disarmament in the 21st century.
Obama’s condemning any future use of a nuclear weapon while at least implicitly supporting its past use in Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be a delicate rhetorical challenge.
While there is a general acceptance that no apology is necessary, and none will be offered, Hiroshima survivors say they want Obama to leave having reaffirmed the commitment he made in Prague in 2009 to “a world without nuclear weapons.”
The president’s focus during his visit should be on remembrance, on the importance of never again going down the road to a World War.
The politics of race
There were high expectations that Obama, the first Black American president, could inaugurate a new era of racial harmony. But most Americans say the issue of race remains a sore point and the country appears to have moved away from racial healing. In some ways, the racial divide has widened and the racial climate has worsened as Black Americans and police confront each other across the country.
At the same time, Obama’s presidency may have paved the way for another non-white politician across the pond.
Sadiq Khan got the White House seal of approval last week, as President Obama’s press secretary declared his victory in the London mayoral election “historic.”
Khan is also the first mayor of a major Western city to be of the Muslim faith.
Like Obama, Khan is young, telegenic, and has a great backstory. He is the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver and a seamstress, who grew up in public housing. He went to state schools, and then graduated as a lawyer from the University of North London. Both Obama and Khan were lawyers who met their wives while working as colleagues at a law firm. Both have two young daughters. Both were wrongly accused of palling around with terrorists and succeeded in beating back a campaign laced with racism and Islamophobia.
Sadiq Khan’s victory in London puts him, in theory, just two or three election cycles away from being Britain’s first non-white, Muslim prime minister.
If the Labour party gets out of his way, Khan could be Britain’s Obama, a legacy Obama himself can be proud of.