Things must be really bad out there. Today I found not one, but two things to agree with on the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal.
First: an editorial today concluded, "The debt-limit hobbits (in the House) should . . . realize that at this point the Washington fracas they are prolonging is harming the Republican image. The GOP is not coming off as adults to whom voters might entrust the government."
Next, this observation by the normally vacuous Peggy Noonan: "(Obama) is losing a battle in which he had superior forces -- the presidency, the U.S. Senate. In the process he revealed that his foes have given him too much mystique. He is not a devil, an alien, a socialist. He is a loser. And this is America, where nobody loves a loser."
Robert Reich, former top aide to Democratic presidents, makes the point in a slightly different way:
"Why is Obama not using the bully pulpit? Perhaps he's too embroiled in the tactical maneuvers that pass for policy making in Washington, or too intent on preserving political capital for the next skirmish, or cynical about how the media will relay or distort his message. He may also disdain the repetition necessary to break through the noise and drive home the larger purpose of his presidency. I have known (and worked for) presidents who succumbed to all these, at least for a time.
"A more disturbing explanation is that he simply lacks the courage to tell the truth. He wants most of all to be seen as a responsible adult rather than a fighter. As such, he allows himself to be trapped by situations -- the debt-ceiling imbroglio most recently -- within which he tries to offer reasonable responses, rather than be the leader who shapes the circumstances from the start.
"Obama cannot mobilize America around the truth, in other words, because he is continuously adapting to the prevailing view. This is not leadership."
Compromise has been useful to U.S. governments in times when reasonable arguments could be made on both sides of an issue. But as Lincoln put it:
"I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong."
President Obama has failed to part with those who have "gone wrong:" Republicans who have allowed Tea Party fools to drag them rightward in the extreme; Wall Street; big oil and gas; pharmaceutical and health insurance companies; CIA torturers; advocates of excessive secrecy in government and excessive power for the executive; those who abrogate the Bill of Rights . . .
These are matters of moral and constitutional law. If a thing is wrong, it is wrong. Compromise does not mitigate its wrongness.
What's been happening lately in Washington is wrong. Everyone who has been part of it is wrong.
For those who, deep in their private beliefs, know that it is wrong -- and there are such -- it is time to "live by the light that they have."
One day, if the nation survives, it will thank them.