Saturday, November 22, 2008

Keep your friends close...

...and your enemies closer.

I was initially appalled by the current Obamian exercises in "pragmatism," and my expectations of the Obama presidency remain low with respect to any fundamental change, for reasons that I have expressed earlier. But on reflection, there is something truly presidential in this manner of going about things. Not only does it reassure those who worried about the yawning gulf of change and transformation that appeared to be opening beneath them, but it effectively neutralizes some of Obama's most powerful opponents.

My eyes are on the Supreme Court, the only place at the moment that I can see Obama making a real difference. By January 20, inauguration day, five of the nine SCOTUS justices will be 70 years old or older. With a Democratic Congress, the potential for shaping the character of the court is great. If there is any substance to Obama's talk of change we can believe in, we will see it emerge
down the road as the inevitable vacancies occur.

In the meantime, we progressives tend to feel betrayed rather too easily. Of course we dislike Joe Lieberman, for good reason, and Hillary Clinton reeks of the old political establishment. But Obama has to govern, and he can't do so from a bunker. He is being astonishingly careful and strategic. Check out some of his predecessor's picks for comparison--Linda Chavez (who didn't make it), John Ashcroft, other assorted pals and cronies, all chosen for loyalty and ideological correctness rather than ability. Obama, on the other hand, is a technocratic liberal who wants to get the job done, and a consummate politician surrounded by smart advisors as well.

from both sides of the political spectrum who expected Bill Ayers to be named as Secretary of Homeland Security and Jeremiah Wright as the new Secretary for Education will be bitterly disappointed, of course. But no apocalypse is looming, other than a possible financial one. Obama, with the best will in the world, has no power to transform America in any profound manner. The best he can do is to use his presidency to communicate alternatives, to point the way to a better future: and even to do that, he has to step very carefully indeed--as he is doing at the moment.

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