…Ahead Is Behind Is Ahead Is Behind Is…

Leading From Behind – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast



Ezra Klein endorses my understanding of how Obama sees his presidency:

When presidents succeed in presiding over great change, they do so by recognizing an existing opportunity, not squeezing one from the stone of existing opposition. Obama correctly saw that 60 Democrats in the Senate and 240 in the House had cleared the way for health-care reform. Bush realized that 9/11 opened the door for the Iraq War. Clinton understood that the preferences of the Republican Congress and the economic growth of the ’90s created space for a Democrat to balance the budget and reform welfare. Reagan sensed that stagnation had prepared the American people for a radically different economic philosophy. FDR knew to push America’s intervention into World War II by incrementally moving forward with arguments based on new events.

This is temperamental conservatism as Burke would understand it. You peruse the existing intimations, to use Oakeshott’s formula. You guide what’s emerging; you do not impose an ideological vision – like Paul Ryan’s. Again this is why an old school conservative can see a lot of good in Obama. Compare his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan with Bush’s. Bush was pure ideology and achieved modest results only when he dropped the ideology and addressed reality in 2006. Obama has been almost pure pragmatism – militarily and politically – on both. David Remnick says that Obama believes that “the price of getting too far ahead of the majority of the country would be politically ruinous and lead to the election of a conservative Republican”:

At a fundraising dinner in 2008, in Montclair, New Jersey, Obama told one of his favorite stories about F.D.R. (He told the story apropos of the Israeli-Arab dispute, but it also pertains to gay marriage.) Obama recounted how when F.D.R. was confronted by the civil-rights leader A. Philip Randolph about the racial injustices in the country and the need for the President to use his powers and his bully pulpit, F.D.R. said he agreed but he would only take action when he was forced to do so by a popular movement. “Make me do it,” he told Randolph.


5 comments on “…Ahead Is Behind Is Ahead Is Behind Is…

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  1. No, it reminds me of Ian Malcolm’s maxim ‘you were so interested, in seeing that you could, yo didn’t ask if you should’ The Obamacare plan is unworkable, is it simple imcompetence or something worse,

  2. @ miguel cervantes:
    How do you know that the “Obamacare plan” is unworkable? How do you even know what the “Obamacare plan” is? How are you defining the “Obamacare plan” – on the basis of what information, from which sources, and on which logic? How, further, do you define “unworkable”? What does this mean, exactly? That health care has stopped or is about to be stopped? Do you define the current health care system as “workable”? If you are wealthy or well-insured, or preferably both, your definition might be very different from someone else’s.

  3. nothing may be workable at this point, and whatever plan was enacted surely was a hash and not original with any one person or even group of persons.

    it’ll be reworked again and again within a dozen years of going into effect.

  4. @ fuster:
    The plan is not an is, but an are, or, if it is an is, then it’s something different from the umbrella legislation that was finally passed, which brought together a rather vast assemblage of different kinds of this’s and that’s, an approach that is itself symptomatic of the determination that achieving simplicity would be too complicated politically. The question is whether the coherence that eventually emerges is “cover universally” or “sauve qui peut.” The more people who are covered in one way or another, the harder it will be politically to de-cover them. So a few years from now, if neo-liberal corporatism has not computed a stable-enough muddle between free market in health care and the ULTIMATE HORROR of socialized medicine, then the country will face a binary yes-no, with “no” involving lots of people losing something not merely precious, but vital, and the status quo ante unreachable, replaced by an unknown. That’s why the conservative scaremongers against whose positions, when I was an opticon, I used to argue – people like Mark Steyn and Mark Levin and Madam Palin – may have been half-right. O-care may have been the apocalypse, or the beginning of it. Thing about the apocalypse is that it’s great for the saved.

  5. yeah, but that damned Nigerian wants to use money that could be going to insurance company executives to save people who aren’t real white-blooded Americans and their kids, too.

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