Thursday, October 14, 2010

(Re)hire this man....

My gut reaction to Obama's long interview with the Times' Peter Baker was to thank God he's President. I'd elect him to four terms if I could.

This kind of reflexive fan club admiration requires some internal pushback -- I need to remind myself that, while I know there's counter-arguments on each front, I suspect at least half-time that Obama & Co. started too low in their stimulus proposal,  never got on the right side of righteous rage against Wall Street, sought Republican support on healthcare for too long,  went deeper into quagmire in Afghanistan to very likely no good purpose, got rolled by Netanyahu on settlements, and did a poor job defending both the PPA and the stimulus.

But there is a perpetual split screen: the art of the politically possible vs. the optimal policy result. And the first measure is the only one that matters. By that standard, I think Obama's self-assessment substantially holds water (notwithstanding rather large caveats on the last item):

And when I look back over the last two years, I can say with pride that we did stabilize the capital markets, did prevent a Great Depression, did save the U.S. auto industry, and we’re still able to move forward on big chunks of that long-term agenda that I campaigned on. We were able to get health reform done. We’ve initiated the most significant education-reform agenda that we’ve seen in a generation. We’ve been able to put a lot more resources into higher education. And we were able to pass the kind of financial regulatory reform agenda that can prevent these kinds of crises in the future, while at the same time protecting consumers. 
Emotion aside, the interview opens quite a window into Obama's thinking about the next two years and the next six years. One key: he is viewing the immediate future through the lens of The Clinton Tapes, Taylor Branch's distillation of his long taped conversations with Bill Clinton during Clinton's presidency. That is, he is girding for Republican takeover of the House at least, and for titanic budget battles, and to protect the legacy of legislative marathon of the past two years.  More on this in a subsequent post.

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