In another era, he might have proved a highly effective speaker, and even under the conditions in which he was forced to operate he probably acquitted himself better than most could have. Riding the conservative tiger is not for the faint of heart, and a lesser man would have been unsaddled and swallowed long ago.
Yes, the Congress that he leaves behind has just a 13 percent job-approval rating. Yes, the dysfunction has grown to historic proportions, and Americans are angry. But it's no small thing to note that despite the headstrong demands of his caucus, he usually managed to ensure that the nation's essential business got done. His approach has been to steer away from immediate disaster and hope for saner times ahead, and there's something to be said for that.