Michiko Kakutani reviews Woodward's 'Obama's War' in the Times this morning. Obama, as described, sounds better than i've heard him described in a while, on left or right, facing difficulties throughout, being realistic about them while being buffeted by the demands of various people and constituencies within and without the military:
Mr. Woodward describes Mr. Obama as engaged in a methodical decision process that is nearly the polar opposite of the gut calls and out-of-channels policy making of the Bush administration, which Mr. Woodward mapped in four earlier books. Mr. Obama is seen repeatedly questioning his aides and the military about the actual United States mission in Afghanistan and underlying assumptions about the war...
An administration review of the Afghanistan war is scheduled for this December. “I’m not signing on to a failure,” President Obama is quoted saying near the end of this book. “If what I proposed is not working, I’m not going to be like these other presidents and stick to it based upon my ego or my politics — my political security.”
He also, predictably, consulted Colin Powell, who, equally predictably, advocated centrist positions that conserved authority and political capital as much as asserted them.
I'm yet again, as I am so often with Obama, torn between demanding that he move leftward in discourse and action, and wondering if he's doing the best he can in the realm of the politically possible while dealing with the steaming pile of shit Bush and Cheney left him, and the borderline types in the Pentagon. Every day brings new evidence of Republican capitulation to the insane far right, and their embrace of total obstruction as sole political tactic. I remain convinced that he should fight more, and more in public, trying to move the goalposts defining legitimate discourse leftward. Nobody else can do it. And his more cerebral, less confrontational default manner demonstrably doesn't work politically against an opposition that demands frank condemnation rather than vain attempts at accommodation. But, too, I wonder if he, or anyone, can succeed in implementing a more progressive agenda in a country increasingly embracing not just conservatism but madness.