|Rupert Cornwell: After this week, we may all owe Obama an apology
Out of America: Healthcare reform, standing up to Israel, and a nuclear treaty have transformed his presidency
What a week it has been. Congress passed the most far-reaching social legislation in four decades. The US and Russia agreed the most important arms control agreement since the end of the Cold War. And an American president, his patience exhausted with Israel's procrastination over what some still describe as "the Middle East peace process", dared send off a visiting Israeli prime minister with a flea in his ear. In short, it was the week that made Barack Obama.
That of course is precisely the sort of flip journalistic judgement of which the man so strenuously disapproves. Anyone who has read his memoir Dreams from My Father, anyone who followed closely the 2008 election campaign, anyone who has watched him pause for a few moments after a question to think through his answer, will have realised that Obama is one for the long game. But a year into his administration, even the true believers were starting to have doubts.
Patience seemed to have turned into stoic passivity. That famously cerebral approach suddenly looked like dilatoriness. Even the trade-mark unflappability had come to resemble a perilous detachment from reality. The vast promise of his presidency was slowly fizzling out, as item after item on his agenda seemed to run into the sand. One respected commentator wrote earlier this month that he didn't seem to be enjoying the job. To others he gave the impression, to borrow Norman Lamont's old jibe against John Major, of being "in office, but not in power".
His enemies, of course, are doing him their share of favours. Republicans may have won a few tactical skirmishes, but the benefits of a policy that consists entirely of saying "no" have surely run out. The fact is that Sarah Palin, the best-known Republican in the land, is judged by 70 per cent of Americans to be unqualified for the White House.
And after its failure to stop healthcare reform, Republican obstructionism looks less menacing. The prospects for financial market reform, climate and energy legislation and immigration reform have suddenly brightened. Obama, of all people, will be wary of excesses of optimism. But one thing he knows full well. Nothing succeeds like success.