August 8, 2011

What Happened to Obama’s Passion?

Drew Westen (NYT):

“A final explanation is that he ran for president on two contradictory platforms: as a reformer who would clean up the system, and as a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue. He has pursued the one with which he is most comfortable given the constraints of his character, consistently choosing the message of bipartisanship over the message of confrontation.”

Westen’s op-ed is a moderately long, but thoughtful read. President Obama was never going to succeed as a unity candidate, because he represents so many things that extreme conservatives hate: liberalism, intellectualism, race. And as a reformer, the first act needed to be draining the swamp, putting blame where it belonged: the extreme conservative wing of the GOP that had held sway for too long, preventing regulation of financial institutions and their products (mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps), giving away our nation’s wealth (the Bush tax cuts) while committing our armed forces to a war no-one needed fought (Iraq). He failed to make that judgement against them, and thereby allowed them to thrive. And that was before the ill-informed Tea Party lunatics took the Federal debt process hostage.

Westen mentions Obama’s talk of the “arc of history” bending toward justice. It doesn’t bend by quick compromise. It bends through conflict. And the extreme conservatives are better at conflict than today’s White House team.