Camille Paglia at Salon.comResponding to letters from readers, Paglia discusses Obama's first days in office, the brain trust around him, and his early "painful missteps." A reader asked about Paglia's earlier statement that Obama has been "ill-served by his advisors" and suggested that "the responsibility for their failures should be laid at the feet of the person who was ultimately responsible" for selecting them. Paglia responded:
You are absolutely correct! The buck stops with the top executive. ... For better or worse, Obama is learning as he goes -- and surely most fair-minded people would grant him reasonable leeway as he grows into the presidency, one of the hardest jobs in the world.Paglia is ultimately too soft on Obama -- despite later mentioning the "bungled handling of the grotesquely swollen stimulus package" -- but it was interesting and refreshing to see a prominent figure from the Left call him out for his disgraceful dhimmitude.
At a certain point, however, Obama will face an inescapable administrative crux. ...
Obama's staffing problems are blatant -- from that bleating boy of a treasury secretary to what appears to be a total vacuum where a chief of protocol should be. There has been one needless gaffe after another -- from the president's tacky appearance on a late-night comedy show to the kitsch gifts given to the British prime minister, followed by the sweater-clad first lady's over-familiarity with the queen and culminating in the jaw-dropping spectacle of a president of the United States bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia. Why was protest about the latter indignity confined to conservatives? The silence of the major media was a disgrace. But I attribute that embarrassing incident not to Obama's sinister or naive appeasement of the Muslim world but to a simple if costly breakdown in basic command of protocol. [emphasis added]
Even more interesting is the flood of vitriol leveled at her by Salon.com commenters. For instance:
go away for God's sakeThose were some of the comments without swearing or inarticulate ranting. I gather from some of the comments that Paglia is not seen as an ideal representative of the Left.
This is just too freaking much. Is this some sort of performance art? Are you a 'literary' Tony Clifton? 'Painful missteps'? THE GUY HAS 66 PERCENT APPROVAL and just conquered Europe! The onmly people in pain are Salon readers subjected to your crap and of course, your life-force jazz-musician-of-language, Limbaugh. Joan -- PLEASE stop this madness!!!
Who is this stupid woman, Camille, and why does she get to write such sophomoric drivel? My God! Having an opinion is one thing, but basing everything with a grade-school mentality is another. Let the grown-ups play here ....
-- Renman [misspelling and grammar from original comments]
Steven Stark at the Boston PhoenixAt the Boston Phoenix blog, Stark Ravings, Steven Stark looks at the question of whether voters picked a Harvard Law grad (Obama) when the country needs a Yalie (Clinton). Responding to a New Republic article by Noam Scheiber about the same topic, Stark presents the options thusly:
He argues that different institutions produce different kinds of leaders, just as the military produces a different leadership style than, say, the political world. In a unique crisis like the present one, it makes all the difference what a leader's intellectual instincts are. And, taking off from where Scheiber began, it may well be that, at least now, Obama has exactly the opposite instincts we need.Stark accepts this thesis and justifies it in the following way:
It all has to do with how each of these two major institutions structures its approach to legal education and public policy. According to Scheiber, the much smaller Yale sees its mission ... to encourage its students to be more creative — "to unlock students' innate brilliance in an atmosphere of freedom, intimacy, and intellectual ferment."
In contrast, Scheiber wrote, Harvard was more formulaic and traditional, priding "itself on instilling discipline . . . [It] was, in certain respects, a three-year hazing ritual." And Obama "absorbed the dispassionate, conservative, relentlessly logical mode of analysis a Harvard legal education was meant to convey."
What's needed is something new, dramatic, and unusual. All things being equal, a group of Yale Law graduates is likelier to come up with something outside the box than their Harvard counterparts.So Stark's lesson from history is that FDR followed the "radical," "creative," and "dramatic" model, and that Obama's Harvard-ish "dispassionate" and "relentlessly logical mode" is the opposite of what the country needs right now.
That, in fact, is the lesson of the early days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration. At that time, Columbia Law School was the Yale of its era. In the 1920s and early 1930s, it was the center of the Legal Realist movement, with future New Dealers... on the faculty. ... Vastly oversimplifying, the Realists believed that the law was not something determinate but whatever any particular individuals (judges, legislators, etc.) decided at a particular time.
FDR, a fellow Columbian, relied heavily on a Columbia "Brain Trust"... when he constructed the largely experimental programs of the early New Deal. ...
Experimentation or the tried and true? Creativity or discipline? The truth is we need a mixture of both. But if one is to be preferred to the other, when the Democrats had a choice this past spring between a graduate of Harvard Law and a graduate of Yale Law — namely Hillary Clinton — did they pick the wrong school? [bold added]
I suppose he's right, that the Obama administration is following a "more... a LOT more... of the same old same old" model -- though it's anything but logical -- and is simply trying to crush the country with a dramatic expansion of the same programs that have been around for decades. But what Stark is suggesting is that the Left yearns for leadership that will come up with new, innovative, and "dramatic" ways to rip the beating heart of the country right out of its chest.
Apparently recycling New Deal ideas isn't enough. I'm left wondering, while shuddering... what would be enough?