The latest in the BBC’s documentary series is the story of the President being reluctantly dragged out of the White House and into the worldby Philip Collins / March 30, 2016 / Leave a comment
Inside Obama’s White House: Don’t Screw it Up is the story of the discovery that power is not there. The latest installment in the BBC’s documentary series on the US President is journalism of the highest calibre. Everyone who counts has been interviewed, the editing is unobtrusive—which is a sure sign that it is clever—and the chronology of events flows without ever drawing attention to its structure. The programme has an air of authority that never wavers. But even that set of virtues could add up merely to the sum of its parts. Inside Obama’s White House is more than that because it embodies a truth about politics which is so rarely aired. Power is elusive, even in the West Wing. This episode of the documentary ends, as any clever argument does, with its main contention. A rather forlorn Barack Obama sits in the Oval Office and, down the barrel of the camera, says of his foreign policy: “you can change opinions and use your voice to move things towards a more ethical and moral outcome. But you’re not always going to be successful.”
It was a far cry from Obama’s words on assuming the Presidency, which also feature here: “We’re going to change this country. And we’re going to change the world.” Between that statement and his conclusion lies all of politics. Democratic politics is the process by which hopes are raised and then disenchanted. The democratic politician encounters a world which is resistant to his charms and people with a disconcerting tendency to take views of their own. The second programme in this series showed how extraordinarily hampered the President was, especially in the most partisan Congress in history, in trying to establish even a limited scheme of healthcare. The third programme exhibited an even further remove from power—the President attempts to reset the world.