Hendrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker): One of the mysteries of the Obama Presidency has been Obama’s inability – or disinclination, I’m not sure which – to give sustained emotional sustenance to a certain slice of his supporters. I don’t mean the “Democratic base” … I don’t mean the disillusioned left, which is easily, almost perpetually disillusioned because it has such an ample supply of illusions.
(A lot of lefties, notwithstanding their scorn for “the system”, seem to have an implicit naive faith in the workability of the mechanisms of American governance. Hence their readiness to blame the disappointments of the Administration’s first two years mainly on Obama’s alleged moral or character failings – cowardice, spinelessness, insincerity, duplicity, what have you.)
Mainly, I guess, the slice I’m talking about is of people like me: liberals who continue to respect and admire Obama; who fully appreciate the disaster he inherited and the horrendous difficulty of enacting a coherent agenda even when your own party “controls” both Houses of Congress; who think his substantive record is pretty good under the circumstances; who dislike some of the distasteful compromises he has made but aren’t sure we wouldn’t have done the same in his shoes … but who are puzzled that our eloquent, writerly President seems to have done so little to educate the public about his own vision and to contrast it with that of the Republican right – which is to say, the Republicans.
I don’t know how many people watched Obama’s speech (on Wednesday) but those who did, and who share my general outlook, got a dose of the emotional (and intellectual) nourishment we’ve been craving.
…Obama spoke powerful words, and spoke them with real feeling. As we all know by now, our President doesn’t “do” anger … (on Wednesday), though, he did sternness; he did dignified exasperation; best of all, he did argument.
…By the time the President got to his own four-step proposal, which calls for higher taxes on the rich … the Republican alternative was a smoking ruin. Given the position his own reluctance, until now, to stake out a clear ideological divide had left him in, Obama succeeded in constructing a reasonably solid fortification for the fiscal battles to come. Even Paul Krugman was pleased. Me, too.
Full article here