The Buzz

Was Obama Too Nice?

The Washington Post ran an “Outlook” piece Sunday by a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University named Drew Westen, who fancies himself a political expert—based, it seems, on his having written a book called The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.

Westen’s political brain has conjured up three big Obama mistakes that have rendered him, says the writer, highly vulnerable to defeat in November. But Westen’s analysis doesn’t seem particularly astute.

Mistake number one, says Westen, was “inviting Republicans to the table.” The GOP had decimated the economy and been repudiated by the voters. “Yet Obama, with his penchant for unilateral bipartisanship, refused to speak ill of what they had done.” In truth, Obama constantly reminded the American people what a mess he had inherited (unlike Richard Nixon, for example, who never fingered Lyndon Johnson for the military quagmire he inherited when he took office). Further, when Obama turned the task of crafting his stimulus package to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic acolytes, he ensured 1) that he would never redeem his pledge to change Washington’s political climate; and 2) that the stimulus package would be weighted down by pet Democratic initiatives that didn’t actually stimulate the economy.

Which brings us to mistake number two: That stimulus package, says Westen, should have been at least a third larger to really work, as reflected in “the thinking of the country’s best economic minds”—in other words, economic minds who agree with Westen. This is specious. And those who wish to be awash in such arguments are better advised to turn to Paul Krugman.

Finally, Obama messed up in his health-care bill by not selling it well enough and allowing those bad Republicans to define the issue falsely to the American people. Ah, yes, the old, cynical canard that when the American people don’t agree with liberal commentators such as Westen, it must be because they were duped.

Three up and three down. Obama has indeed made mistakes, but they weren’t the mistakes catalogued in this howler of an article.