‘Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can!’ With these exuberant assurances, the young candidate, buoyed by an unexpectedly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, vowed to carry on his crusade. One year later, in January 2009, the candidate became president and set out to make good on his promises.
That Barack Obama possessed the ability to heal the nation and repair the world seemed in many quarters all but self-evident. As he donned the mantle of the ‘most powerful man in the world’, the expectations that had lifted him into the Oval Office qualified as nothing short of messianic. A dark and depressing interval of American history, symbolised by place names such as Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, was ending.