The Economist: Blame Obama, Not the System

Didn’t want to let this go by without comment.
From the Feb. 18 edition (“What’s Wrong With Washington?”):

Washington has its faults, some of which could easily be fixed. But much of the current fuss forgets the purpose of American government; and it lets current politicians (Mr Obama in particular) off the hook.
America’s political structure was designed to make legislation at the federal level difficult, not easy. Its founders believed that a country the size of America is best governed locally, not nationally. True to this picture, several states have pushed forward with health-care reform. The Senate, much ridiculed for antique practices like the filibuster and the cloture vote, was expressly designed as a “cooling” chamber, where bills might indeed die unless they commanded broad support.

It is not so much that America is ungovernable, as that Mr Obama has done a lousy job of winning over Republicans and independents to the causes he favours. If, instead of handing over health care to his party’s left wing, he had lived up to his promise to be a bipartisan president and courted conservatives by offering, say, reform of the tort system, he might have got health care through; by giving ground on nuclear power, he may now stand a chance of getting a climate bill. Once Mr Clinton learned the advantages of co-operating with the Republicans, the country was governed better.

I think this is a pretty fair assessment. It acknowledges some structural problems (later in the piece) while avoiding the pitfalls of the one-dimensional “system-is-broken” narrative. It’s also a bellwether for the Obama administration. They seem more nostalgic for Bill Clinton than John McCain, but there is a world of difference in tone from their endorsement of Obama sixteen months ago.

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