Keith Humphreysâ€™ thoughtful post called to mind some thoughts I wanted to jot down after re-reading Drew Westenâ€™s NYT piece on Obama and Jonathan Chaitâ€™s blistering response to Westen in the New Republic. Westen is surely a primary target of Keithâ€™s scorn, and I agree with both Chait and Keith that Westen grossly exaggerates what a leader in Obamaâ€™s position could have been expected to accomplish.
Yet it would be a mistake not to acknowledge that Westen is onto something. Obama might not have been able to have achieved substantively different outcomes in many of the recent battles. But he does have the rhetorical skill to have forced Republicans to pay a much stiffer political price for their obstructionism. And his supporters can hardly be faulted for being upset that he chose not to.
Last Decemberâ€™s struggle about the Bush tax cuts on high-income households is a case in point. Many on the left have been bitterly critical of the president for capitulating to Republican demands on that issue. But consider the details of the choice the president faced.Â Continue reading “Westen vs. Chait on Obama”