Rising above health care for a minute, some people are considering the Obama presidency more generally. Both liberals and conservatives are having their say, reviewing everything from the Obama management style to his campaign promises. Predictably, the two sides disagree on the strengths and weaknesses of the administration.
From the right:
- Extended Campaign Syndrome No one expected Karl Rove to be nuts about Obama, but his latest Wall Street Journal editorial is nevertheless likely to cause some talk. Calling President Obama "unpresidential," Rove slammed the administration for its "rhetorical tricks" and "efforts to divide Americans." In a campaign, Rove wrote, staffers can "cut corners because they are fatigued or under pressure. They can be purposely combative and even portray critics as enemies." Afterwards, "carrying this mindset into the White House can get you into trouble."
- Too Many Compromises Drew Westen disagreed: the president, if anything, needs to take a firmer stance. "The American people," Westen wrote in the Huffington Post, "did not vote for 'bipartisan' solutions that split the difference between the failed ideology of the last eight years, which continues to cost thousands of people their jobs and homes every day, and the change the President and the super-majorities they elected in both houses of Congress promised." Westen was particularly puzzled by an apparent deal with credit card companies, giving them a 10-month grace period to adjust to new legislation: "You don't normally give burglars your vacation schedule in advance so they have time to 'adjust.'"
- And About that Drug Company Deal... Ruth Marcus was less than impressed with the administration's deal with Tauzin, keeping Medicare from negotiating drug prices. "Clear positions yield to political realities," she wrote of Obama's earlier promise to end such agreements. Marcus acknowledged that this was true with both foreign and domestic policy. "Which leads to the core question facing the still-young administration: What happens when people start to wonder whether they can really believe in this change?
- Obama the Micromanager Neil King Jr. and Jonathan Weisman argued in the Wall Street Journal that "Mr. Obama often dives into the minutiae" in daily policy meetings, "sometimes chafes at his advisers' limitations," and that this "management style [...] sometimes has trouble translating with opponents, and the country at large."
- Come Again? Noam Scheiber in The New Republic, however, wasn't convinced. "The piece conflates two very different things: One is micromanaging, which involves making decisions that are well below your pay-grade. The other is wanting detailed information on which to base decisions that are precisely your pay grade." Reviewing King's and Weisman's various examples, he concluded: "this does not sound like a budding micromanger to me." Puzzling over what he called "a very good story," except for its conclusion, he offered the following explanation: "If I had to guess, I'd say what happened is that the Journal found itself with a nice story about the way Obama makes decisions, but that it seemed too positive."