Michael Gerson: No Longer Putting The Square Peg In The Round Hole

By Jesse Taylor
Wednesday, January 7, 2009 15:40 EDT
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imageI’ve reread this Michael Gerson column three times, and I have to marvel at just how incredibly safe a columnist for a major newspaper is. Gerson writes a piece that pretty much admits he paid no attention whatsoever to the past two years of presidential politics whatsoever…and is apparently still employed.

Barack Obama was elected, in part, as the antidote to ambition. Unlike John F. Kennedy, who campaigned against the golf-playing complacency of the Eisenhower era, Obama appealed to a nation weary of large national exertions — a nation longing for a normality beyond the wars, hurricanes, floods and assorted plagues of the Bush years.

This is pretty much exactly wrong. You know how I know this? Because Obama made nearly two years worth of speeches about changing shit, and transforming things. We’re not so much weary of large national exertions as we are of every exertion being invariably screwed up beyond belief, coupled with an ensuing several-year debate wherein everyone who’s got a problem is called a traitor.

Yet headed toward the inauguration, the scale of Obama’s ambition is becoming evident.

So, Obama was elected as the antidote to ambition on an ambitious platform whose ambition is only now becoming evident despite it being the exact thing he ambitiously proposed for nearly two years. What?

After dividing Obama’s proposals into “ambitious” (read: things Republicans oppose for reasons Gerson can articulate) and “non-ambitious” (read: the types of proposals that Republicans signed onto in some way during the Bush administration and would therefore be hypocritical to oppose, which won’t actually stop them), Gerson ends with this:

During the campaign, I sometimes criticized Obama for lacking specificity and ambition. But as the specifics emerge, the ambitions of his campaign pledges are ever more clear.

So, basically, Obama was non-specific and unambitious, but now that he’s articulating the same specifics he was discussing before, he’s both specific and ambitious…and needs to curtail that ambition to please Republicans. I really hope he spent all that time he wasn’t paying attention to the campaign doing something productive, like lowering his Wii Fit age.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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