Dr. Drew Westen is back, bubbling with indignation and fluttering with the old familiar vapors and again slaying the Enlightenment with his Rousseau-like Romanticism. Oh dear, if only President Obama were endowed with Westen's boundless courage and penetrating intuition and almost total ignorance of politics, we'd be well on the road to utopia--Hope/Crosby-style, that is.
You no doubt remember Westen, an insufferable progressive ideologue who a year ago caused such a liberating stir in the deflated groins of lesser progressive ideologues; a psychology professor who, in addition to political ignorance, piled historical and literary pretensions--"the arc of history does not bend toward justice through capitulation cast as compromise"--into his "controversial" NY Times piece, "What Happened to Obama?"
That singular effort by Westen earned him what others had labored entire careers to achieve: a slot in the New Republic's annual list of "Over-Rated Thinkers":
Westen bungled a number of important facts, ignored others, elided crucial parts of history, and displayed a generally poor knowledge of how power is distributed and exercised in national politics.... He appears to be giving a deeper, more inward analysis, when in fact his knowledge of politics is amateurish. But at least he tells an enticing story, and that, apparently, is what it’s all about.
Ditto, in "If Obama loses the election, here’s why," now showing in the Washington Post. The above is just about all you need to know.
To be a trifle more informative, though, it seems that in Westen's professionally unconnected-dots-of-an-opinion Barack Obama is afflicted by the coextensive character flaws of both titanic timidity and extraordinary arrogance. This immense inner conflict I find rather extraordinary in itself, and it's indeed unfortunate that, as noted, Westen doesn't seem to notice it. Nonetheless the conflict is revealed in the president's "three crucial errors":
Obama’s first mistake was inviting the Republicans to the table. The GOP had just decimated the economy and had been repudiated by voters to such an extent that few Americans wanted to admit that they were registered Republicans. Yet Obama, with his penchant for unilateral bipartisanship, refused to speak ill of what they had done.
[I]nstead of designing a stimulus that reflected the thinking of the country’s best economic minds, he cut their recommended numbers by a third and turned another third into inert tax cuts designed to appease Republican legislators whose primary aim was to defeat him.
[He] let a popular idea — a family doctor for every family — be recast as a losing ideological battle between intrusive government and freedom.... In keeping with the most baffling habit of one of our most rhetorically gifted presidents, Obama and his team just didn’t bother explaining what they were doing and why.
In short, President Obama as chillingly poltroonish and fiercely hubristic. This "narrative" is achieved by Westen's near abject neglect of accompanying facts on the ground and reality in play and events in progress. To read Westen's interpretation is to imagine an ideologically unified and powerfully insuperable Democratic majority in both chambers--a majority both squandered and exploited by executive-branch ineptitude, a presidency both hopelessly adrift and blindly anchored. Unreliable, conservative Democrats begone; an influential, lockstep and constitutionally empowered minority begone; factions begone; lobbying begone; politics begone.
Which seems to be the principle plank in the indignant platform of (some) activist progressivism. Well, that and an egotistical idealism forever unsullied by the inextinguishable grime of pragmatic politics--you know, the kind that modern progressivism's founder, FDR, practiced.