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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

 
Michael Gerson represents all that's wrong with the Village

by David Atkins

Michael Gerson, he of the Bush Administration's hyperpartisan, Iraq-invading presidency, has to gall to write a column entitled "Obama shoves idealism into its grave." Nope, no joke. Here's the key bit:

This will, no doubt, please the president’s strongest supporters, who are grateful that he has given up the pious balderdash of bipartisanship. They welcome his sharper political edge. They describe him as “wiser,” “wary” and more realistic about the unchangeable obstructionism of his opponents.

It is not the first time a president has been indicted by the praise of his courtiers. Obama arrived with limited experience on the national stage — only to find himself in the fight from the last act of Hamlet. He seemed surprised that Washington could not be changed by the force of his personality. He has become a sobered and hardened figure. A former public official who often interacted with Obama put it this way to me: “Obama disdains politicians and the art of politics, but he is highly competitive and wants to beat them at their own game.”

This is not a problem if the president is merely one participant among many in a series of zero-sum political battles. But this approach has serious drawbacks if a president is called to play a leadership role in reforms that require both parties to trust each other and take simultaneous risks. On the evidence of his second inaugural, Obama has moved beyond such idealism.
Gerson represents the Village in its purest, most vapid form. After chiding the President for believing that he could pacify the squabbling Village and convince Republicans to be reasonable, Gerson makes no mention of the reasons the President failed in this endeavor. Then, having acknowledged that the President's gestures of bipartisanship had failed, he chides the President for at least rhetorically abandoning somewhat his previous commitment to pure bipartisanship. Gerson calls this a failure of idealism, echoing the Village sentiment that true idealism lies not in the desire for good public policy, but rather in a desire for pleasant comity within the Village. Nor is there a shred of shame for a key player from the dramatically partisan and corrupt Bush Administration in making this argument. Gerson will doubtless remain invited to all the best galas and cocktail parties.

Revolting.


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