In the next few weeks, you will hear many assessments of Barack Obama’s first year in the White House.
Many of them will be partisan claptrap that will tell you more about the biases of the speaker than about the president’s performance.
Listen: [audio: satullo20100110.mp3]
Here’s my take, which of course is shaped by my bias. Let me state it: No other president in my lifetime has had a philosophical outlook so close to my own. So, while Obama has disappointed me sorely on a few counts, I think he’s done a mostly impressive job dealing with the deplorable hand he was dealt by his blithely incompetent predecessor.
I’m not going to attempt a soup to nuts assessment. I just want to point up what I think has been one of Obama’s biggest obstacles.
To govern as he’d prefer, Obama needs a coherent, responsible opposition. Instead, he has Michele Bachmann, James Imhofe and Glenn Beck.
Obama’s aim is to pursue progressive goals through pragmatic innovation, while restraining his party’s fatuous left wing.
Only in the paranoid fantasies of Fox News talkers is Barack Obama a traditional liberal. Traditional liberals are perpetually annoyed with him.
His preference is to test his plans by rubbing them against the strongest, most cogent arguments from the other side.
But the other side has no cogent ideas. All they have is an angry, partisan, unpatriotic resolve to thwart whatever this president proposes.
I understand quite well that principled Republicans might oppose some of what Obama proposes on philosophical grounds. And as soon as I find a principled Republican on Capitol Hill, I’ll be sure to ask him.
The ideologues who have taken over what used to be a Grand Old Party obviously have just one agenda: Make Obama fail.
Health care is good example. A loyal opposition could make plenty of legitimate objections to Obama’s reform ideas, with an eye to improving the nation’s response to an urgent problem.
But we don’t get that. We get hysterical nonsense about death panels and totalitarian crushing of liberty.
Obama would love to have a serious opposition. It would help him hone his ideas and cool the jets of his own party’s left wing.
Instead, he’s left practically on his own in trying to make intellectual sense inside the wreckage left by the previous administration.
Given that, he ain’t doing half bad.