Four years ago he was a blank slate. Millions projected their finest dreams on to Barack Obama. He was going to bring America together and put an end to racial strife. Hed make America respected again around the world. Hed do big things. His would be a transformational presidency.

Millions of other voters sketched their deepest fears on Obamas blank slate. He was inexperienced and untested. He was different, unknown. He was a wild-eyed liberal, a communist, a Muslim. Maybe he wasnt really an American.

The Kool-Aid has worn off for most of the lefties and newbies who swooned in 2008. But the far right has been more resistant to reality. Hes still the other, if not the antichrist, with a secret, second-term agenda to destroy America. An entire industry has grown up, devoted to spreading fear and lies about Obama.

But most Americans know him now, or at least we ought to. After four years in the White House, that slate should be pretty well filled in. What have we learned about the president?

- Hes still No Drama Obama, a cool head when things get hot. He doesnt speak or act impulsively. He thinks things through. His gaffes are rare.

- He works well with others. He staffed his administration with strong personalities and sometime rivals like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bob Gates, Leon Panetta and more. They dont always agree behind closed doors its no secret that Biden opposed the Afghan surge and the bin Laden raid but there have been few signs of back-biting or the turf fights so common in Washington.

- Hes willing to compromise, sometimes too willing. Obama kept making concessions to Republicans in Congress, rarely getting their votes in return. But hell take a half-loaf any day and come back looking for the other half later.

- Obamas a basketball player his high school team won a state championship. As president, he may dribble around a bit, but hes willing to take the shot, even if its not a sure thing. Sometimes it clangs off the rim, like when he flew to Copenhagen in a last-ditch effort to bring the Olympics to Chicago. Sometimes it hits the target, like the Navy sniper who took out the Somali pirates to rescue an American captain early in Obamas presidency, or like Seal Team 6 nailing Osama bin Laden.

- Hes a moderate who only looks like a leftist because Republicans have moved so far to the right. Obamacare is more conservative than Nixons health care reform proposal. Infrastructure investments were a top priority for Republicans like Lincoln and Eisenhower. Despite what youve heard, the numbers show that federal spending has grown at a lower pace under Obama than any president in 60 years.

- Hes not afraid to go big. Presidents since Harry Truman have tried to guarantee universal access to health care. Obama succeeded. The stimulus bill was the largest intervention in the economy in history, and it worked. Independent economists agree it added 2 percent to GDP, the difference between continuing recession and fragile recovery. It also included major long-term investments and significant reforms in education, energy and health care.

- Hes got a terrific family. Nothing the Obamas have done has embarrassed the nation.

- Hes on the side of those who need help. He went to the mat to extend benefits for the unemployed, to raise Pell grants and reduce interest rates for needy college students. In the wonky details of all the tax legislation hes signed are provisions to shrink the income gap and boost opportunity for the middle class.

- Diversity is in his DNA and inclusion is one of his core values. He didnt have to welcome gays and lesbians into the military or give the children of illegal immigrants a chance to be part of the only country they know and Mitt Romney wouldnt have done either one.

The week of the presidential inauguration, Rush Limbaugh said he wanted Obama to fail, and for four years, his allies in the Republican Party have done their best to make Rushs dream come true. While the congressional wing tried to stall progress on the nations agenda at every turn, the media wing kept painting caricatures on Obamas slate.

Those not blinded by partisanship have seen a different picture. After four years, they know President Obama to be level-headed, warm-hearted, open-minded and even-tempered. He has proven himself to be the leader America needs, now and for another four years.

Rick Holmes, opinion editor for the Daily News, blogs at Holmes & Co. ( He can be reached at

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the newspaper.