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On the campaign trail in 2008 Barack Obama was an inspirational performer. But three years on he seems to have lost his touch.

Intellectual where Bush was impulsive and consensual where Bush was polarising, Obama's election appeared to mark a turning point in the elusive human qualities Americans seek in a President. But as his bid to win a second term ramps up, amid rising unemployment and plummeting approval ratings, the very same characteristics are widely seen as handicaps.

Journalist Gary Younge visits Washington D.C., where living presidents are ravaged and dead ones revered, to find out what qualities Americans want in their head of state and whether Obama has them.

Do they want someone down-to-earth who can feel their pain or a lofty statesman who can pose as leader of the free world. Does it even matter how a President performs their role? Or is it simply their record - what they achieve in office - that counts? If performance does matter, what can Obama do about it as he seeks to win a second term in 2012?

In part one, Gary looks to Presidents past for lessons on how to perform the role. He meets Velma Hart, the ordinary woman who articulated the anxieties of a nation when she challenged Obama at a town hall meeting in 2010. And he considers one of Obama's most noteworthy performances so far: the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Producer: Peggy Sutton
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.

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30 minutes

Last on

Sun 23 Oct 2011 13:30
BBC Radio 4 FM only
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