Putting the substance aside for one moment, Obama’s Cooper Union speech on the economy illustrates two points about his thinking that haven’t been widely remarked on:
1. When he considers issues he tends to start out by thinking historically, and by starting with the period around the framing of the Constitution. This is a very unusual impulse among American office-seekers.
2. He identifies strongly with Hamilton as against Jefferson. In particular, he uses Hamiltonian interventionism to demonstrate that laisser-faire was not among the founding doctrines of the nation. Since Jefferson remains among the household idols of the Democratic Party, that’s a fairly bold thing to do.
The same themes come through in The Audacity of Hope.