I love Andrew Sullivan’s take on the early days of the Obama presidency and its differences from the Bush era. Read it all here, but here are a few highlights.
One impression from Obama’s interactions with the Republicans and Democrats in Congress: Obama clearly sees the presidency as a different institution than his immediate predecessor. This is a good thing, it seems to me. Bush had imbibed a monarchical sense of the office from his father and his godfather (Cheney). The monarch decided. If you were lucky, you’d get an explanation later, usually dolled up in propaganda. But the president had one accountability moment – the election of 2004 – and the rest of the time he saw the presidency as a form of power that should be used with total boldness and declarative clarity.
Now look at Obama. What the critics misread in his Inaugural was its classical structure. He was not running any more. He was presiding. His job was not to rally vast crowds, but to set the scene for the broader constitutional tableau to come to life. Hence the obvious shock of some Republican Congressman at debating with a president who seemed interested in actual conversation, as opposed to pure politics.
If Bush was about the presidency as power, Obama is about the presidency as authority. It’s fascinating to watch this deep difference in understanding slowly but unmistakably realize itself in public actions. Somewhere the Founders are smiling. The system is correcting itself after one of the most unbalanced periods in American history. But it took the self-restraint of one man to do it.