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There's a new article out in Vanity Fair by Todd Purdum that paints a picture of Obama realizing Washington is broken, but doesn't think he can do anything about it, so he's just going to plow ahead with what he thinks is right and hopes history will prove him right (because of course history is never written by people with an ax to grind).

I'm with you on this, Magnifico. A much better article was this one by John Judis, "The Unnecessary Fall," noting the many shortcomings of the Obama Administration. My reaction to that article was very much along the lines of what you just wrote.

Obama doesn't see the US as systematically broken. He just thinks it needs the right technocrat in charge. It's not just that Obama believes in elite individuals - he believes in elite institutions. He believes the supposedly "collegial" Senate processes are good and should be respected (which was the content of his only appearance at Daily Kos, back in 2005 to chide the netroots for criticizing the Senate's acquiescence to the John Roberts nomination).

This is interesting, given that the first 6 paragraphs of the Vanity Fair article include things like
We think of the presidency as somehow eternal and unchanging, a straight-line progression from 1 to 44, from the first to the latest. And in some respects it is. Except for George Washington, all of the presidents have lived in the White House. They've all taken the same oath to uphold the same constitution. But the modern presidency--Barack Obama's presidency--has become a job of such gargantuan size, speed, and complexity as to be all but unrecognizable to most of the previous chief executives. The sheer growth of the federal government, the paralysis of Congress, the systemic corruption brought on by lobbying, the trivialization of the "news" by the media, the willful disregard for facts and truth--these forces have made today's Washington a depressing and dysfunctional place. They have shaped and at times hobbled the presidency itself.

...

The evidence that Washington cannot function--that it's "broken," as Vice President Joe Biden has said--is all around. For two years after Wall Street brought the country close to economic collapse, regulatory reform languished in partisan gridlock. A bipartisan commission to take on the federal deficit was scuttled by Republican fears in Congress that it could lead to higher taxes, and by Democratic worries about cuts to social programs. Obama was forced to create a mere advisory panel instead. Four years after Congress nearly passed a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws, the two parties in Washington are farther apart than ever, and hotheaded state legislatures have stepped into the breach. Guantánamo remains an open sore because of fearmongering about the transfer of prisoners to federal prisons on the mainland. What Americans perceive in Washington, as Obama put it in his State of the Union speech, in January, is a "perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side--a belief that if you lose, I win." His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, whose Friday-afternoon mantra has become "Only two more workdays till Monday!," sums up today's Washington in terms both coarser and more succinct. To him, Washington is just "Fucknutsville."

So, I think it is quite likely that the way Obama is painted as aware that Washington is systemically broken is accurate
And so it is. But one can also ask: Even if Washington is broken, is it still partly usable? Is there a way to play the Washington game--on its own ugly terms, and even to play it ferociously, because you have to--and yet transcend the game in some fundamental way? This is the central question of the Obama administration, as its senior officials are well aware--because, in countless ways, their boss has told them so. They all talk candidly about that question, which remains unanswered. But a day in the president's shoes offers a glimpse of the size of the challenge.


By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 18th, 2010 at 01:49:42 PM EST
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