“The Obama Synthesis Under Siege”: Ross Douthat


The true ideological inclinations of the Obama White House can be endlessly debated, but slightly more than halfway through this presidency I think it’s fair to make the following generalization: Obama has governed as a business-friendly social democrat and an aggressive social liberal, as a hawkish interventionist when intervention seems cheap and easy (drones, missiles, etc.) and a cautious realist when it doesn’t, and as a surprisingly vigorous defender of presidential prerogatives across a variety of fronts. A few weeks ago, I characterized Obama-era liberalism as featuring “an imperial presidency, a corporatist economic policy, and then a libertarian turn on almost every social issue,” and while that line misses various nuances and complexities, as one-sentence summaries go I think it’s pretty good.

It’s also useful for understanding why the last few weeks have been so rough for this White House.

more; and Tim Carney:

Both the availability of weapons and the rising presence of al Qaeda revealed that Libya was not safe. They revealed that Obama’s invasion of Libya was no clean matter of getting rid of Moammar Gadhafi and going home. Americans were still on the ground doing dirty work, in a terrorist-ridden land destabilized by our decapitation of the old government and aiding a civil war.

And the ugly deaths came amid something of an end-zone dance by Obama’s campaign.

Just a week before, at the Democratic National Convention, Obama had cited deposing Gadhafi as one of his achievements. John Kerry said, to raucous applause, “without a single American casualty, Moammar Gadhafi is gone, and the people of Libya are free.”

Vanity Fair was preparing to mail its issue dominated by Michael Lewis’ flattering portrait of Obama. The feature focused on Obama’s attack on Libya.

Obama was campaigning on his foreign policy success, including a clean regime change in Libya. But there are no clean regime changes, and Obama knows this. Or at least he knew this in 2002, when he said, “Even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.”


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