The Balance Of Obama


My Sunday column:

The question buzzing around Washington’s chattering classes is the following: is the actual historical moment that Obama inherited unforeseen in its scope and danger this time last year the right moment for these instincts? Are his caution and delegation a liability in a period of a dysfunctional Congress, a near-psychotic Republican party and a potentially lethal global depression? After a period in which the American executive claimed vast powers and institutionalised torture and abuse of suspected terrorists, is it enough simply to forget and forgive the past and try to glue onto the existing system more checks and balances and decency? Is the conservatism we sought, in other words, adequate to the radicalism that may now be required? And is the president being too deferential to Congress in seizing the reins?

This critique is echoed on both left and right. The right, in its dominant neoconservative vein, is frustrated with his disdain for classic American moralising and sabre-rattling at a moment such as Iran’s stymied green revolution. The left wishes he had been more radical in taking on Wall Street, insisting on a single-payer healthcare reform and a full-bore carbon tax. Harper’s Magazine has even labelled him Barack Hoover Obama: personally brilliant, humane and pragmatic but simply not daring enough for the moment he is facing.

Full column here.

(Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty.)