Obama's Choices for the Republicans on His Debt Commission Was Another Enormous Unforced Error
links for 2010-09-27

Clive Crook Has Driven Henry Farrell Insane

Wow. This is impressive. The hypothesis that there is something about writing for the Atlantic these days that is likely to rot your brain gains further support.

Henry Farrell:

Hair-tearing: I don’t know whether Clive Crook is deliberately trying to show us how thin the partitions are between supposedly sensible centrism and grand guignol style theater, but he’s certainly doing a damn fine job of it.

These and other compromises disappointed the left. But the message to the electoral centre was consistent: Mr Obama would have let the left have its way if he could. What he should have done – and what he ought to do from now on – is simple. Instead of blessing leftist solutions, then retreating feebly to more centrist positions under pressure, he should have identified the centrist policies the country could accept and advocated those policies. … The left will tear its hair over another surrender and the centre will note where the president’s sympathies actually lay. … Substantively, whether taxes on high-income households rise now or two years from now does not matter very much. … Symbolically, though, Mr Obama’s position speaks volumes. … Nothing short of the Scandinavian model (plus stronger unions, minus the commitment to liberal trade) will ever satisfy the Democratic left. Its role, its whole purpose, is to be betrayed. So betray it, Mr President, and start leading from the centre.

This really is a rather wonderful piece of writing in its own, quite particular way. Mr. Crook doesn’t have a theory of politics (he never bothers to provide any evidence for all those confident assertions about how centrists are vigilantly monitoring the Obama administration for the slightest hint of hippy-hugging), so much as a kind of torrid internal psychodrama that (for reasons best known to him) he has chosen to inflict upon us repeatedly in printed form and that (for reasons best known to them) the editorial team of the Financial Times has decided to pay him for. And that psychodrama is on full display here. The dithering Obama, trying to resist the siren-calls of the left and only half-succeeding. The ever-disappointed centrist voter, sadly shaking its collective head yet again as the president hesitates over whether to embrace his true love or to succumb to the allures of forbidden passion. And that frenzied maenad, the left, fated always to be betrayed, because it is only in being betrayed that she can achieve her true destiny. It’s like an opera. A very bad opera. Or perhaps one of those Greek plays in which everyone ends up killing each other after having had sex with their parents and siblings. What it doesn’t resemble – at all – is a piece of serious political thinking and writing. I’d have thought that this would be a significant problem for a political column myself – but then I’m not an editor for the Financial Times.