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Pragmatism Beats the Alternative

Michael Gerson reviews the many Obama administration’s stumbles, and cautions:

These stumbles have had an almost theological effect among Republicans: The doctrine of Obama’s political infallibility has been challenged. But the administration’s setbacks — particularly those on personnel — are temporary, and easily reversed by a series of legislative victories that have already begun.

The initial period of the Obama administration, however, has provided hints of a long-term problem — not one of incompetence, but of emptiness.

Gerson finds that “emptiness” is really unmoored “pragmatism.” But the examples which he provides — a sell out on education reform and deferral to liberal Democrat stimulus drafters suggests not pragmatism, but trite liberalism. There is nothing new, nothing innovative or daring in any policy initiative yet undertaken. All those smart people in the administration — and we wind up with something John Kerry finds entirely satisfying. It is the deadening hand of liberal convention and intellectual conformity.

Pragmatism would at least offer some excitement, as he tacked right and then left. Bill Clinton at least tried to put into practice “The Third Way” — albeit under considerable Republican pressure. Nevertheless, he did depart from the dreary sameness of New Deal liberalism. Not this president — questioning FDR is verboten.

So unlike Gerson, I’d settle for some policy pragmatism right about now. It’s better than a revival of every bad liberal idea from the last seventy years.



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