I found Dionne's lament shocking. We do have a Niebuhr-like figure in our midst -- he just happens to be Black and President of these United States. In the fashion of Niebuhr, Barack Obama seems to believe both in the inescapable presence of evil in the world and in the hope that something better is possible.
Coming out of the moral horror that was World War II, Niebuhr is credited with authorship the Serenity Prayer.
A 2010 article from CNN recalled Niebuhr for contemporary citizens through Obama's affinities with his thought.
Obama is both praised and criticized for attempting from the pinnacle of human power to strike a balance between justice and greed, persuasion and naked overwhelming force. He has failed much and succeeded a little. He satisfies few. We've had a president for the last for eight years -- compromised as he is -- whose moral universe is broad and deep. This is not something we expect, or perhaps even value much, in a politician, but we've seen what such a one can and cannot do with power.
Other occasional "Summing up Obama" musings: Revisiting Rev. Wright and Ta-Nehisi Coastes on the Prez.