In the New Republic, William Galston compares Barack Obama’s “too-long wish list” with FDR’s way of doing things and comes up with a bleak conclusion:
The key analogy between today and 1933 is the centrality of the financial crisis, which makes it hard to understand why the administration has not yet moved as decisively to fix it as FDR did on the first day of his presidency. This issue could not have come as a surprise to Obama and his chief financial advisors. Their failure thus far to restore financial confidence raises two equally depressing possibilities: Either they do not know what to do, or they do not believe they can muster the political support to do what they know needs to be done.
There’s one crucial difference, though. Obama simply has more to do. Roosevelt may have inherited a depression, but he didn’t inherit two wars. The country’s reputation wasn’t in tatters, nor had civil liberties been under attack for eight years. FDR didn’t have to fix a justice department that had been reduced to churning out CYA memos for the president; or an intelligence agency that had been greenlighted to torture its detainees. Global warming wasn’t an issue, so there was no reason to re-examine misguided policies. Stem cell research? Abortion? Forget about it. Oh, and I don’t think there was anyone clamouring for a truth commission, either.
I’m not saying Obama shouldn’t get his priorities straight. In fact, I share Galston’s alarm. But it’s not simply a case of an inept administration fumbling in the dark. We just want so much more.