10 February 2009

Why isn't that guy on TV campaigning?

I found President Obama's press conference last night to be quite a revelation. At the beginning, there was something about it that just felt odd to me, and about half way in I realized what it was: he wasn't acting out the character of the would-be president, he wasn't deflecting every answer the way a candidate would (and the way he often did as a candidate). In short, he wasn't campaigning for the next election, he was just describing the actions he was taking and that he thought were necesary - one might even say leading.

It hit me that I've never really experienced this phenomenon. At least since Reagan, the US president has played the role of president, even when in office. Even the 'policy-wonk' Clinton did this, and surely W. did it in a way we've never seen before.

I'm not saying that I love the current stimulus bill, or that I'm a huge fan of the politics of the last few weeks, Obama's politics included. (Although, on this front, I'm teaching the Federalist today and I was struck by Kesler's introduction in which he points out that the opponents of the Constitution thought it was tyrannical [as we know] but that the 'friends' also worried the thing would be a total failure [as we don't often emphasize]). But whatever happens, it's a source of some comfort and some pride to think that Obama might be making some decisions and taking some actions not as a 'democratic strategy' or as tactics for midterm elections, or for 2012 (or whatever). But rather, he might actually – at least some of the time – be moving down a path that he thinks is genuinely in the public weal.

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