Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze.Drew Westen sums up the problem at the core of the Obama Presidency in this New York Times editorial. As many observers have noted, there's a lack of connection somewhere in the storylines inside and outside our President's head.
The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.The Administration will, no doubt, shrug Westen's column off as sour grapes from a spurned liberal. This is the same willful obliviousness that we saw in the W years, and is a further example of exactly the problem that Westen identifies. We're in worse shape now than we were before the election, because this time, there's no better alternative waiting in the wings.
A somewhat less charitable explanation is that we are a nation that is being held hostage not just by an extremist Republican Party but also by a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election. Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in “Dreams From My Father” appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there — the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.
The Administration continues to believe (as the Bush people did) that they can create reality. Reality begs to differ. And reality carries a might big club.