Obama the incrementalist

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 2009; 9:35 AM

One year ago, the hopes were sky-high for Barack Obama.

Today, expectations have been tempered by reality.

His cheerleaders feel let down, and are searching for explanations.

Anyone who's spent two weeks in Washington would know that Obama's yes-we-can idealism would run smack into the capital's no-we-won't culture. But the media built Barack into a transcendent figure, one who would overcome the usual obstacles with his post-partisan appeal. Remember when the newsmagazines couldn't decide whether he was more like FDR or Lincoln?

Now Newsweek has some 'splainin' to do, and it continues its recent trend of turning liberal essays into cover stories. The liberal in question is Anna Quindlen, and she offers the following thesis:

It's not Obama's fault.

No, it's the system's fault.

No president could really be expected to triumph over the paralyzed pathways of power.

(Memo to media: Perhaps you could have clued us in on this fact last year?)

Quindlen does allow that some self-deception may have been at play, that lefties saw what they wanted to see in the senator from Illinois. But mostly she tries to explain away the president's lack of progress. Here's the piece:

"History will judge Barack Obama over the long haul. But we've learned something in the short term that is simple, obvious, and has less to do with him than with the Founding Fathers. This is a country that often has transformational ambitions but is saddled with an incremental system, a nation built on revolution, then engineered so the revolutionary can rarely take hold. . . .

"Universal health care is the area in which the gap between what's needed and what's likely is most glaring, and the limitations of the president's power most apparent. It is dispiriting to watch the cheerleaders of American exceptionalism pound their chests and insist that our citizens do not need the kind of system that virtually every other developed nation finds workable."

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