What Makes Obama Tick?


TPM Reader JS:

Let’s say that all of the sudden, due to the catastrophic onset of a once-in-a-generation crisis, it no longer becomes possible to deny that the elites at the head of a societally important institution have a record of rampant violation not just of the law, but of our most cherished American ideals. Do you:

A) acknowledge that the institution itself has failed in fundamental ways, name and prosecute the true bad apples to the fullest extent of the law, and overhaul the system in a way that essentially wipes out many of the vested interests that have kept it going; or

B) attempt to patch up the existing system by agreeing to keep up various now-discredited fictions and illusions in exchange for a few hard concessions from the elites, all in the hope that the whole monstrosity can limp along until the crisis has passed, at which point it can recover and all of the elites can go back to business as usual

Obama is, by nature, a consensus seeker with inhuman levels of ambition and talent, which means that on both torture and on Wall St. bankster criminality he instinctively reaches for B), which is the (impossible) option that attempts to please everybody at least a little. But what we really need is A), which would seem to someone like Obama to be the most dangerous option, necessitating as it does the social trauma of genuine collective soul searching. You’d have to be able to gamble that America can tolerate this kind of huge rupture — like the lancing of a boil — and come through it all intact, and Obama is not a gambler.

I’m still withholding judgment, but I can’t say this is an unreasonable reading of the evidence thus far.


David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.