In a lengthy New Yorker piece culled from hundreds of pages of internal White House memos, Ryan Lizza paints a detailed picture of President Obama's fall from the idealistic candidate who promised to usher in an era of post-partisanship. A week before his inauguration, Obama enjoyed an amiable dinner with a host of right-leaning journalists, pointing out common ground they shared. Some of those journalists penned hopeful, even admiring pieces about Obama in those early days. Today, they're more likely to call him a "floundering naïf" (George Will, who hosted the dinner party) or "sanctimonious, demagogic, self-righteous, and arrogant" (Charles Krauthammer, one of the attendees).
What happened? Obama "clung too long to his vision of post-partisanship, even in the face of a radicalized opposition whose stated goal was his defeat," writes Lizza. Once he let go of that vision, he turned wary, concerned about salvaging his image in a still-deeply-partisan Washington. (Spend a $35 billion windfall on a campaign priority or on deficit reduction? "I would opt for deficit reduction, but it doesn’t sound like we would get any credit for it," Obama wrote.) He was forced to scale back proposals or tweak bills to attract support from lobbyists; ultimately, "he ended up governing like a facilitator, which is what the most successful presidents have always done," writes Lizza. "The private Obama is close to what many people suspect: a president trying to pass his agenda while remaining popular enough to win re-election." Lizza's whole piece is worth a read.