This North Star approach to the presidency is classic and deeply pragmatic. It is centrist in its methods, ambitious in achieving long-term goals, emphasizing responsible stewardship of the nation as a whole. This approach to the office is hardly radical. It explains Obama’s frustration with the hyper-partisan heckling that disproportionately dominates our political debates.
It echoes what Walter Lippman wrote while reflecting on the American presidency during FDR’s time in office: “As a matter of historical experience, it is clear that a responsible and effective statesman can rarely be classified as all ‘conservative’ or all ‘radical’…It is all very confusing to those who would like their politics neat and simple, black or white, left or right. But human affairs are more complicated than human formulas.”
We are living in a time of grossly distorted fun-house mirror political debates, where the far-right thinks that the president is a Marxist and the far-left thinks that he is a Wall Street sellout. In this over-heated environment, the responsibilities of governing get downgraded as the country gets divided. It is time to start turning the tide.