Obama was not a disappointment. He may have failed to meet the expectations of everyone who voted for him — duh! — but since when is that mathematically and politically possible?

Obama is clever, good, generous, honest and as optimistic as he is realistic — an extremely rare combination. He will go down in history more for the things he did not do — for the mistakes he refused to perpetuate — than for the things he did in a political system that seems to have been designed to defeat any sort of Social-Democratic inclination. All U.S. presidents choose the advisers they want. Obama gets a lot of advice, but the decisions always seem to be his, after he has listened carefully to all the advice.

This week’s New York Review of Books features a conversation between President Obama and (the marvelous novelist) Marilynne Robinson. And this is just the first part of the conversation. The second part will follow in two weeks. One can read it for free at the magazine’s website. Obama’s smart idea was to be the interviewer. Although this interview, disguised as conversation, suffers from an excess of transcription, what stands out is Obama’s attention. Explaining that campaigns have a lot of downtime because of travel, Obama reveals that he spent some of his free time reading Robinson’s few and well-written novels.

Will the world and the U.S. lose Obama? Obviously not, in any way.