The un-decider

The Obama administration’s approach to the 9/11 trials is emblematic of what you might call Obama’s egalitarian faux-democracy, in which the illusion of responding to every side in a debate undercuts the democratic process of actually arriving at a decision…

This illusion of national participation in his decision-making process, with the promise of a happy ending that excludes no one, has been Obama’s method almost from Day One. Call it the American Idol style of governing—except that no possibility ever gets voted out of the competition.

No one must feel marginalized by a tyrannical majority. Obama allows the responses of the public, and the political establishment, and the media to break down every issue into a million parts, so that the multi-faceted clamor outside his head ends up looking a lot like the multi-faceted way he considers the world from inside his head. And by the time a decision comes—and yet it seems that Obama has not come to a single consequential decision since his inauguration—some people will feel unsatisfied, but no one will feel defeated…

Obama seems not so much to govern as to preside. And yet for all the prudent pragmatism of his style, he doesn’t seem merely to want to please everyone. He seems determined not to be held responsible for the displeasure he causes.