Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Does Obama Really Subscribe to an “Ideology of Responsible Process”?

I’m a great admirer of George Packer. So I’m surprised to find him propounding a general thesis that strikes me not merely as contestable, but as incontestably wrong:
“Obama’s Presidency is animated by what I call an ‘ideology of responsible process.’ At its best, this ideology upholds a powerful example of good governance, intelligent policymaking, and honest discourse. It elevates nothing higher than Obama’s desire to improve America’s decaying political culture. At its most limited, it sees governance as a branch of mechanical engineering performed by pragmatic experts, and it doesn’t see that every political act means engaging, one way or another, in a larger philosophical debate.”
I’m struggling to think of a single instance in which Obama has willingly sacrificed a substantive objective in deference to the integrity of a governing process. I can fill up the other side of the ledger off the top of my head. Obama has already: (1) broken his promise to keep lobbyists from working in the White House; (2) broken his promise to put every bill on the web 72 hours before it came up for a congressional vote; (3) broken his promise to televise congressional negotiations over healthcare policy on C-Span; (4) broken his promise to use his presidential powers to discourage congressional earmarks; (5) backed off the support he voiced for Senate closure rules when Democrats were contemplating filibustering Bush judicial nominees as soon as Scott Brown emerged as the 41st vote against ObamaCare; (6) threatened to circumvent congressional opposition to cap-and-trade legislation through unprecedented EPA rule-making, and most egregiously, (7) broken his promise to accept public financing for his general election campaign.

I could go on, but you get the point. Doesn’t it make more sense to regard Obama as a doctrinaire liberal perfectly ready to subordinate procedural norms to progressive ends?

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