Gawd. MoDo wastes our time with “Obama’s Fly Move” in which she opines that President Obama’s swift killing of a fly may have resonated so much because some Americans fear that he is too prone to negotiation, comity and splitting the difference. MoDo, honey, it didn’t “resonate” at all. It was turned into something “meaningful” by morons like you. STFU, fergawdsake. The Moustache of Wisdom, in “Bullets and Ballots” written from the safety of his cozy mansion, tells the Iranians that if supporters of Mir Hussein Moussavi want their ballots to count, they must continue their protests and show Iran’s leaders that they can be neither bought nor bullied. Easy for you to say, Tommy… Mr. Kristof writes about “Lettuce From the Garden, With Worms,” and says one reason for the myriad health problems in America is our industrialized agriculture system, and it should be under scrutiny — by the government as well as consumers. Mr. Cohen, who is still in Tehran, says “A Supreme Leader Loses His Aura as Iranians Flock to the Streets,” and that as protesters defied a warning from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country faces its gravest test since the founding of the Islamic Republic. Mr. Rich writes about “Obama’s Make or Break Summer,” and says that while restraint has proven useful for President Obama’s foreign policy dealings, he can not afford to use the same subtle tactics on urgent domestic issues. Here’s MoDo:
The White House has two kinds of aides: The ones who prefer to think of their boss as gifted but human, and the ones who think their boss is on a date night with destiny.
The first group thinks that when things go really well for President Obama that he’s benefiting from luck as well as skill. For instance, they suggest, if any one of the sharpshooters from the Navy Seals who killed the three Somali pirates holding the American captain had aimed a millimeter to the left, maybe the captain would have been killed, and the incident would have turned into a symbol of weakness — as when Jimmy Carter’s attempt to free the hostages in Iran ended with a helicopter crash in the desert.
And what if there had been another terrorist attack in America? Everything would be seen through a darker lens.
The second group of aides are more caught up in the myth and magic, feeling that Mr. Obama summons the three-point swishes when he needs them; that his popularity is not so fragile; that the president’s unparalleled vision and buzzer-beating will can shape fate.
Just so, there are some Americans who think the president got an excess of attention from an excitable news media for expeditiously executing a fly that was buzzing around his face during an interview with CNBC and the Times’s John Harwood.
And there are others who see a mystical, metaphorical dimension to the way the president nonchalantly lasered in on the meddlesome insect after it ignored his admonition, “Hey, get outta here.” Without even uncrossing his legs or lunging about, the Chill One caught it, crushed it and kicked it aside and then said to Harwood, “Now, where were we?” before returning to his point about regulatory reform.
“It’s like he’s got one of those Fly Terminator targeting systems in his eyes,” marveled Jon Stewart.
Maybe the president who collected Spider-Man comics as a kid couldn’t resist the age-old face-off with a fly.
The moment had echoes of parables in which the ordinary one becomes the golden one.
In “The Karate Kid,” a teenager whose father has died learns lessons about the body and spirit from his surrogate father and karate teacher, Mr. Miyagi. His lessons are about not going to the dark side, the importance of discipline, and catching flies. “Man who catch fly with chopstick,” Mr. Miyagi says, “accomplish anything.”
In the Grimms’ fairy tale, “The Brave Little Tailor,” a tailor brandishing a rag kills seven flies swarming around his jam-smeared bread. The little man admires his own bravery so much — “For joy his heart wagged like a lamb’s tail” — that he wants the whole world to know of it. So he stitches up a belt for himself embroidered with the legend “Seven at one blow!” and saunters out.
Protected by his legend, using brains rather than brawn, he dispatches two giants and captures a unicorn and a wild boar before winning a princess and living happily ever after as a king.
The president didn’t order up a “One at one blow!” belt. You don’t need such accessories in the era of YouTube viral videos. But he did admire his own ninja moves so much that he gave himself a shout-out: “That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? I got the sucker.” Then he solicited more snaps for what Harwood called his “ ‘Make my day’ moment” from his press secretary off camera: “Whaddya think, Gibbs?” After the interview was over, he continued his superfly moves by cleaning up the carcass with a napkin.
The moment may have resonated so much because some Americans fear that President Obama is too prone to negotiation, comity and splitting the difference, that he could have been tougher on avaricious banks and vicious Iranian dictators.
The “shocking murder in the White House,” as Stephen Colbert dubbed it, was a small moment. “All they want is to be loved and to feed on our waste,” Jeff “The Fly” Goldblum said in a dry defense of the exoskeletal creatures on the Colbert Report.
But at least this moment didn’t involve any talking or therapy or charm or compromise or seminars.
“The snuff aspect of it was psychologically useful for Obama,” Harwood told me. “He decided to take it out and he did take it out.”
If only the president could be so brazen about pushing through gay rights and health care.
Harwood was bemused about the serious issues in his interview getting swallowed by a bug.
“It will be the most noticed thing in my career,” he conceded, “but I’m rolling with it.”
I guess MoDo has never figured out that the more attention is given to trivial shit the more “important” it seems to be to the trivial and stupid… Here’s The Moustache of Wisdom:
The popular uprising unfolding in Iran right now really is remarkable. It is the rarest of rare things — more rare than snow in Saudi Arabia, more unlikely than finding a ham sandwich at the Wailing Wall, more unusual than water-skiing in the Sahara. It is a popular uprising in a Middle Eastern oil state.
Why is this so unusual? Because in most Middle East states, power grows out of the barrel of a gun and out of a barrel of oil — and that combination is very hard to overthrow.
Oil is a key reason that democracy has had such a hard time emerging in the Middle East, except in one of the few states with no oil: Lebanon. Because once kings and dictators seize power, they can entrench themselves, not only by imprisoning their foes and killing their enemies, but by buying off their people and using oil wealth to build huge internal security apparatuses.
There is only one precedent for an oil-funded autocrat in the Middle East being toppled by a people’s revolution, not by a military coup, and that was in … Iran.
Recall that in 1979, when the Iranian people rose up against the shah of Iran in an Islamic Revolution spearheaded by Ayatollah Khomeini, the shah controlled the army, the Savak secret police and a vast network of oil-funded patronage. But at some point, enough people taking to the streets and defying his authority, and taking bullets as well, broke the shah’s spell. All the shah’s horses and all the shah’s men, couldn’t put his regime back together again.
The Islamic Revolution has learned from the shah. It has used its oil wealth — Iran is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, exporting about 2.1 million barrels a day at around $70 a barrel — to buy off huge swaths of the population with cheap housing, government jobs and subsidized food and gasoline. It’s also used its crude to erect a vast military force — namely the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia — to keep itself in power.
Therefore, the big question in Iran today is: Can the green revolution led by Mir Hussein Moussavi, and backed by masses of street protestors, do to the Islamic regime what Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian people did to the shah’s regime — break its spell so all its barrels and bullets become meaningless?
Iran’s ruling mullahs were always ruthless. But they disguised it a bit with faux elections. I say faux elections because while the regime may have counted the votes accurately, it tightly controlled who could run. The choices were dark black and light black.
What happened this time is that the anger at the regime had reached such a level — because of near-20 percent unemployment and a rising youth population tired of seeing their life’s options limited by theocrats — that given a choice between a dark black regime candidate and a light black regime candidate, millions of Iranians turned out for light black: Mr. Moussavi. The Iranian people turned the regime man into their own candidate, and he seems to have been transformed by them. That is why the regime panicked and stole the election.
The playwright Tom Stoppard once observed that democracy is not the voting, “it’s the counting.” Iran’s mullahs were always ready to allow voting, as long as the counting didn’t matter, because a regime man was always going to win. But what happened this time was that in the little crack of space that the regime had to allow for even a faux election, some kind of counter-revolution was born.
Yes, its leader, Mr. Moussavi, surely is less liberal than most of his followers. But just his lighter shade of black attracted and unleashed so much pent-up frustration and hope for change among many Iranians that he became an independent candidate and, thus, his votes simply could not be counted — because they were not just a vote for him, but were a referendum against the entire regime.
But now, having voted with their ballots, Iranians who want a change will have to vote again with their bodies. A regime like Iran’s can only be brought down or changed if enough Iranians vote as they did in 1979 — in the street. That is what the regime fears most, because then it either has to shoot its own people or cede power. That is why it was no accident that the “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Khamenei, warned protestors in his Friday speech that “street challenge is not acceptable.” That’s a man who knows how he got his job.
And so the gauntlet is now thrown down. If the reformers want change, they are going to have to form a leadership, lay out their vision for Iran and keep voting in the streets — over and over and over. Only if they keep showing up with their bodies, and by so doing saying to their regime “we cannot be bought and we will not be cowed,” will their ballots be made to count.
I am rooting for them and fearing for them. Any real moderation of Iran’s leadership would have a hugely positive effect on the Middle East. But we and the reformers must have no illusions about the bullets and barrels they are up against.
Here’s Mr. Kristof:
Growing up on a farm near Yamhill, Ore., I quickly learned to appreciate the difference between fresh, home-grown foods and the commercial versions in the supermarket.
Store-bought lettuce was always lush, green and pristine, and thus vastly preferable to lettuce from my Mom’s vegetable garden (organic before we called it that). Her lettuce kept me on my toes, because a caterpillar might come crawling out of my salad.
We endured endless elk and venison — my Dad is still hunting at age 90 — or ate beef from steers raised on our own pasture, but “grass-fed” had no allure for me. I longed for delicious, wholesome food that my friends in town ate. Like hot dogs.
Over the years, though, I’ve become nostalgic for an occasional bug in my salad, for an apple that feels as if it were designed by God rather than by a committee. More broadly, it has become clear that the same factors that impelled me toward factory-produced meat and vegetables — cheap, predictable food — also resulted in a profoundly unhealthy American diet.
I’ve often criticized America’s health care system, and I fervently hope that we’re going to see a public insurance option this year. But one reason for our health problems is our industrialized agriculture system, and that should be under scrutiny as well.
A terrific new documentary, “Food, Inc.,” playing in cinemas nationwide, offers a powerful and largely persuasive diagnosis of American agriculture. Go see it, but be warned that you may not want to eat for a week afterward.
(It was particularly unnerving to see leftover animal bits washed over with ammonia and ground into “hamburger filler.” If you happen to be eating a hamburger as you read this, I apologize.)
“The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000,” Michael Pollan, the food writer, declares in the film.
What’s even more eerie is the way animals are being re-engineered. For example, most Americans prefer light meat to dark, so chickens have been redesigned to produce more white meat by growing massive breasts that make them lopsided. Who knew that breast augmentation was so widespread in chicken barns?
“When they grow from a chick and in seven weeks you’ve got a five-and-a-half pound chicken, their bones and their internal organs can’t keep up with the rapid growth,” explained Carole Morison, a Maryland chicken farmer who allowed the film crew into her barns. “A lot of these chickens here, they can take a few steps and then they plop down. It’s because they can’t keep up with all the weight that they’re carrying.”
Huge confinement operations for livestock and poultry produce very cheap meat and eggs. But at what cost?
The documentary introduces us to Barbara Kowalcyk, whose two-and-a-half-year-old child, Kevin, went from healthy to dead in 12 days, after he ate a hamburger tainted with E. coli bacteria. Even after his death, it took weeks for the tainted meat to be recalled.
“Sometimes it seems that industry was more protected than my son,” Ms. Kowalcyk complains.
She has a point. Agribusiness companies exercise huge political influence, and industry leaders often fill regulatory posts. The Food and Drug Administration consequently dozed, and the number of food safety inspections plunged.
There is some evidence that pathogens, including E. coli, become much more common in factory farming operations. Move feedlot cattle out to a pasture for five days, and they will lose 80 percent of the E. coli in their gut, the film says. And the massive routine feeding of antibiotics to farm animals is a disgrace that reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating sick humans.
Pathogens are now seeping into the unlikeliest foods. On Friday, the F.D.A. advised consumers not to eat Nestlé cookie dough — cookie dough! — because of concerns about E. coli contamination, after reports of illness in 28 states.
American agribusiness truly is wondrous. When I moved back to the United States after years of living in China, I remember visiting a supermarket and feeling a near-religious awe. Yet one consequence of this wondrous system is that unhealthy calories are cheaper than nutritious ones: think of the relative prices of Twinkies and broccoli. We even inflict unhealthy food on children in the school lunch program, and one in three Americans born after 2000 is expected to develop diabetes.
The solutions aren’t simple, and may involve paying more for what we eat, although we may save some of that in reduced health costs for diabetes and heart disease. In any case, “Food, Inc.” notes that we as consumers do have power. “You can vote to change the system,” it declares, “three times a day.”
Here, where the lettuce from the garden has already bolted from the heat, we can’t wait until the weather cools enough for a fall crop. You may get the occasional bit of grit or an ant, but the flavor is infinitely better and we know there are no chemicals on it. Here’s Mr. Cohen:
The Iranian police commander, in green uniform, walked up Komak Hospital Alley with arms raised and his small unit at his side. “I swear to God,” he shouted at the protesters facing him, “I have children, I have a wife, I don’t want to beat people. Please go home.”
A man at my side threw a rock at him. The commander, unflinching, continued to plead. There were chants of “Join us! Join us!” The unit retreated toward Revolution Street, where vast crowds eddied back and forth confronted by baton-wielding Basij militia and black-clad riot police officers on motorbikes.
Dark smoke billowed over this vast city in the late afternoon. Motorbikes were set on fire, sending bursts of bright flame skyward. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, had used his Friday sermon to declare high noon in Tehran, warning of “bloodshed and chaos” if protests over a disputed election persisted.
He got both on Saturday — and saw the hitherto sacrosanct authority of his office challenged as never before since the 1979 revolution birthed the Islamic Republic and conceived for it a leadership post standing at the very flank of the Prophet. A multitude of Iranians took their fight through a holy breach on Saturday from which there appears to be scant turning back.
Khamenei has taken a radical risk. He has factionalized himself, so losing the arbiter’s lofty garb, by aligning himself with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against both Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition leader, and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founding father of the revolution.
He has taunted millions of Iranians by praising their unprecedented participation in an election many now view as a ballot-box putsch. He has ridiculed the notion that an official inquiry into the vote might yield a different result. He has tried pathos and he has tried pounding his lectern. In short, he has lost his aura.
The taboo-breaking response was unequivocal. It’s funny how people’s obsessions come back to bite them. I’ve been hearing about Khamenei’s fear of “velvet revolutions” for months now. There was nothing velvet about Saturday’s clashes. In fact, the initial quest to have Moussavi’s votes properly counted and Ahmadinejad unseated has shifted to a broader confrontation with the regime itself.
Garbage burned. Crowds bayed. Smoke from tear gas swirled. Hurled bricks sent phalanxes of police, some with automatic rifles, into retreat to the accompaniment of cheers. Early afternoon rumors that the rally for Moussavi had been canceled yielded to the reality of violent confrontation.
I don’t know where this uprising is leading. I do know some police units are wavering. That commander talking about his family was not alone. There were other policemen complaining about the unruly Basijis. Some security forces just stood and watched. “All together, all together, don’t be scared,” the crowd shouted.
I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?” one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!”
Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of “Death to the dictator!” and “We want liberty!” accompanied her.
There were people of all ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad.
“Can’t the United Nations help us?” one woman asked me. I said I doubted that very much. “So,” she said, “we are on our own.”
The world is watching, and technology is connecting, and the West is sending what signals it can, but in the end that is true. Iranians have fought this lonely fight for a long time: to be free, to have a measure of democracy.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, understood that, weaving a little plurality into an authoritarian system. That pluralism has ebbed and flowed since 1979 — mainly the former — but last week it was crushed with blunt brutality. That is why a whole new generation of Iranians, their intelligence insulted, has risen.
I’d say the momentum is with them for now. At moments on Saturday, Khamenei’s authority, which is that of the Islamic Republic itself, seemed fragile. The revolutionary authorities have always mocked the cancer-ridden Shah’s ceding before an uprising, and vowed never to bend in the same way. Their firepower remains formidable, but they are facing a swelling test.
Just off Revolution Street, I walked into a pall of tear gas. I’d lit a cigarette minutes before — not a habit but a need — and a young man collapsed into me shouting, “Blow smoke in my face.” Smoke dispels the effects of the gas to some degree.
I did what I could and he said, “We are with you” in English and with my colleague we tumbled into a dead end — Tehran is full of them — running from the searing gas and police. I gasped and fell through a door into an apartment building where somebody had lit a small fire in a dish to relieve the stinging.
There were about 20 of us gathered there, eyes running, hearts racing. A 19-year-old student was nursing his left leg, struck by a militiaman with an electric-shock-delivering baton. “No way we are turning back,” said a friend of his as he massaged that wounded leg.
Later, we moved north, tentatively, watching the police lash out from time to time, reaching Victory Square where a pitched battle was in progress. Young men were breaking bricks and stones to a size for hurling. Crowds gathered on overpasses, filming and cheering the protesters. A car burst into flames. Back and forth the crowd surged, confronted by less-than-convincing police units.
I looked up through the smoke and saw a poster of the stern visage of Khomeini above the words, “Islam is the religion of freedom.”
Later, as night fell over the tumultuous capital, gunfire could be heard in the distance. And from rooftops across the city, the defiant sound of “Allah-u-Akbar” — “God is Great” — went up yet again, as it has every night since the fraudulent election. But on Saturday it seemed stronger. The same cry was heard in 1979, only for one form of absolutism to yield to another. Iran has waited long enough to be free.
I pray for the safety of the protesters in Iran, and am in awe of them. Here’s Mr. Rich:
That First 100 Days hoopla seems like a century ago. The countless report cards it engendered are already obsolete. The real story begins now. With Iran, universal health care, energy reform and the economic recovery all on the line, the still-new, still-popular president’s true tests are about to come.
Here’s one thing Barack Obama does not have to worry about: the opposition. Approval ratings for Republicans hit an all-time low last week in both the New York Times/CBS News and Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls. That’s what happens when a party’s most creative innovations are novel twists on old-fashioned sex scandals. Just when you thought the G.O.P. could never match the high bar set by Larry Craig’s men’s room toe-tapping, along came Senator John Ensign of Nevada, an ostentatiously pious born-again Christian whose ecumenical outreach drove him to engineer political jobs for his mistress, her cuckolded husband and the couple’s son. At least it can no longer be said that the Republicans have no plan for putting Americans back to work.
But as ever, the lack of an adversary with gravitas is a double-edged sword for Obama. It tempts him to be cocky and to coast. That’s a rare flaw in a president whose temperament, smarts and judgment remain impressive. Yet it is not insignificant. Though we don’t know how Obama will fare on all the challenges he faces this summer, last week’s big rollout of his financial reform package was a big punt, an accommodation to the status quo. Given that the economy remains the country’s paramount concern — and that all new polling finds that most Americans still think it’s dire — this timid response was a lost opportunity. It violated the Rahm Emanuel dictum that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” and could yet prompt a serious political backlash.
A tip-off to what was coming appeared in a Washington Post op-ed article that the administration’s two financial gurus, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, wrote to preview their plan. “Some people will say that this is not the time to debate the future of financial regulation, that this debate should wait until the crisis is fully behind us,” they wrote by way of congratulating themselves on taking charge.
Who exactly are these “some people” who want to delay debate on the future of regulation? Not anyone you or I know. Most Americans were desperate for action and wondered why it was taking so long. The only people who Summers and Geithner could possibly be talking about are the bankers in their cohort who helped usher us into this disaster in the first place. Both men are protégés of one of them, Robert Rubin, the former wise man of Citigroup.
There are some worthwhile protections in the Summers-Geithner legislation, especially for consumers, but there’s little that will disturb these unnamed “people” too much. I’ll leave it to financial analysts to detail why the small-bore tinkering in the administration blueprint won’t prevent another perfect storm of arcane derivatives, unchecked (and risk-rewarding) executive compensation and too-big-to-fail banks like Citi. Suffice it to say that the Obama team has not resuscitated the Glass-Steagall Act, the New Deal reform that Summers helped dismantle in the Clinton years and that would have prevented the creation of banking behemoths that held the economy hostage.
A particularly dramatic example of how the old Wall Street order remains intact can be seen by looking at the fate of credit-rating agencies like Moody’s, which gave triple-A grades to some of the cancerous derivatives at the heart of the economic meltdown. As Gretchen Morgenson of The Times reported last year, Moody’s sins during the subprime frenzy included upgrading its rating of securities underwritten by Countrywide Financial, the largest mortgage lender, after Countrywide complained that the ratings were too tough.
Since then, more details have emerged in this unsavory narrative. When the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Countrywide’s former chief executive, Angelo Mozilo, with securities fraud and insider trading this month, it produced e-mails from 2006 in which Mozilo referred to his company’s subprime loan products as “toxic” and “poison.” Mozilo wrote that “we have no way, with any reasonable certainty, to assess the real risk of holding these loans on our balance sheet.” Yet Moody’s didn’t warn the public by downgrading Countrywide’s securities until the summer of 2007. Meanwhile, this supposed watchdog for investors, which, like other credit-rating agencies, is paid by the very companies it monitors, took its own tranche of the bubble. Moody’s profit margins even surpassed Exxon’s.
And how have it and its peers in the credit-ratings game fared in the Obama regulation crackdown? Incredibly enough, they can still collect fees from the companies they grade. “It is as if Hollywood studios paid movie critics to review their would-be blockbusters,” wrote Eric Dash in The Times.
Non-Wall Street Americans who signed on to Countrywide’s toxic loans are doing far less well. The White House stood by passively this spring as banking lobbyists mobilized to castrate the administration’s Helping Families Save Their Homes Act. The final version eliminated the key provision that would have allowed judges to lower the principal for mortgage holders whose homes are worth less than their loans. Dick Durbin, the Democratic senator from Illinois, correctly observed in April that the banks are “still the most powerful lobby” in Congress and that “they frankly own the place.”
The banks’ influence at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue is also conspicuous. The revolving door between the government and Wall Street is as greasy as ever in this White House. It’s all too depressing that the administration enforced its no-lobbyists policy to shun a human-rights advocate, Tom Malinowski, a lobbyist for genocide victims in places like Darfur, but granted Geithner a waiver to appoint a former Goldman Sachs lobbyist, Mark Patterson, as his chief of staff.
Obama is very eloquent in speaking of the “culture of irresponsibility” that led us to the meltdown, but that culture isn’t changing so much as frantically rebranding. A.I.G. is now named A.I.U., and has employed no fewer than four public relations firms, including one whose bipartisan roster of shills ranges from the former Hillary Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn to the former Bush White House press secretary Dana Perino.
Taxpayers are paying for that P.R., having poured $170 billion-plus into A.I.G. But we still don’t have a transparent, detailed accounting of what was going down last fall when A.I.G. and its trading partners, including Goldman, snared that gargantuan cash transfusion. Perhaps if there had been a thorough post-crash investigative commission emulating the Senate investigation led by Ferdinand Pecora after the crash of 1929, we would now have reforms as thorough as F.D.R.’s. It was because of the Pecora revelations that Glass-Steagall was put in place.
If you watch CNBC, of course, the recovery is already here, and the new regulations will somehow stifle it. The market is up, sort of. Even some bank stocks are back. Unemployment, as Obama reminds us, is a lagging indicator. And so, presumably, are all the other indicators that affect most Americans. One in eight mortgages is now either in foreclosure or delinquent, with the share of new mortgages going into foreclosure reaching a record high in the first quarter of 2009. Credit card debt delinquencies are up 11 percent from last year in that same quarter.
The test for Obama is simple enough. If the fortunes in American households rise along with Wall Street’s, he is home free — even if his porous regulatory fixes permit a new economic meltdown decades hence. But if, in the shorter term, the economic quality of life for most Americans remains unchanged as the financial sector resumes living large, he’ll face anger from voters of all political persuasions. When the Fox News fulminator Glenn Beck says “let the banks lose their tails, they need to,” he illustrates precisely where right-wing populism meets that on the left.
It’s still not too late for course correction. Before rolling out his financial package, Obama illustrated exactly what’s lacking when he told John Harwood on CNBC: “We want to do it right. We want to do it carefully. But we don’t want to tilt at windmills.”
Maybe not at windmills, but sometimes you do want to do battle with fierce and unrelenting adversaries, starting with the banking lobby. While the restraint that the president has applied to the Iran crisis may prove productive, domestic politics are not necessarily so delicate. F.D.R. had to betray his own class to foment the reforms of the New Deal. Lyndon Johnson had to crack heads on Capitol Hill to advance the health-care revolution that was Medicare. So will Obama for his own health-care crusade, which is already faltering in the Senate courtesy of truants in his own party, not just the irrelevant Republicans.
Though television talking heads can’t let go of the cliché that the president is trying to do too much, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll says that only 37 percent of Americans agree. The majority knows the country is in a crisis and wants help. The issue has never been whether Obama is doing too much but whether he will do the big things well enough to move us forward. Now that the hope phase of his presidency is giving way to the promised main event — change — we will soon find out.