The War On The Right - And Obama


My thesis that the core rationale for the Obama presidency was a post-boomer pragmatism has been assailed lately as unrealistic, and responsible for Obama's apparent woes. I can see how Maureen's critique does indeed make some psychological sense, can appreciate Sam Tanenhaus' reminder of the endurance of the cultural war and I under-estimated the sheer cultural panic and pent-up frustration on the right in the wake of the Obama landslide, with all its implications for America's future. (I did not, however, under-estimate the centrality of Sarah Palin to this environment.)

But isn't it increasingly obvious that Obama's refusal to take the far right bait, to position himself as a problem-solver open to sane Republican ideas, rather than as a tribune of the left, is looking wiser again? He has not focused on attacking the GOP until very recently with Boehner and had hung back from the cable news atmosphere. A whiff of Adlai Stevenson hangs about him for some Democrats. And yet, as the Dish has repeatedly argued, Obama's greatest skill is in letting his opponents destroy themselves and his greatest asset in these heated days of sound and fury is his calm and poise.

He is taking the responsibility of the presidency seriously, and people notice that. Hence his rather resilient polling numbers, given the broader public mood. I have made many criticisms but I remain of the view - very firmly of the view - that we remain extremely lucky to have him. And I think we will see his true mettle if the current GOP wins the House, which in many respects, I hope they will - if the GOP is to grow up, and take some responsibility for fixing the appalling mess they largely made at home and abroad.

Obama is a poultice, bringing these toxins to the surface. But his capacity to be more than that - to realize the possibilities I felt inherent in his candidacy back in 2007 - remains to be seen. What I hope is that he does not take the truly partisan advice and misunderstand the nature of his presidency and the reason he is still the indispensable figure at this point in American history.

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty.)