No, We Can't: Meet the Pessimist in Chief

Despite the rhetoric, Obama offers realism, not hope: Finkelstein
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2009 11:07 AM CST
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Midwest Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama, elected on a tide of optimism, insisted yesterday that a new generation could meet the challenges of the age. Yet he described economic crisis and a collective failure of will, with no promise of rebirth or redemption, Times of London columnist Daniel Finkelstein observes. And that may be just what America needs: a president who campaigns with "Yes, we can," but governs with "No, we can't."

"It is not hard to see why many election campaigns are relentlessly optimistic," Finkelstein writes. "Optimism works at the ballot box." Obama, seen as the candidate of hope, has in fact always nursed his pragmatic, even pessimistic streak; his memoirs are full of downbeat ruminations. "Obama's election has widely been seen as ushering in a new era of ambition and optimism," writes Finkelstein, "but prepare for quite the opposite." (Read more optimism stories.)