I've read a lot of bloggers reacting to Westen's article that I cited in my post entitled "What's wrong with Obama?". The consensus doesn't like it, mainly because he overstates the power of presidential rhetoric while not really addressing the institutional barriers in the way of the Obama getting the policies he wants. I think most of that criticism has been right. Westen does overstate it.
And I mentioned in the first paragraph of my post that probably the biggest problem with Obama passing more liberal policies has been the 60 vote barrier that you need to pass bills through the Senate. That is not something any other president has had to deal with on the type of consistent basis Obama has had. You could even argue that not many presidents have had to deal with such a combative House. Just look at what happened last week as evidence for that. So even before Obama got into office and had to deal with unique barriers, it was hard for presidents to get all of the policies they wanted.
I guess I didn't react as strongly against Westen's article is because I was looking at the rhetorical parts through the lens of what I wanted to hear from Obama, not necessarily how that rhetoric affected policy. And when I conceptualized rhetoric, I think I was throwing in the way Obama has negotiated in private and public with the people in congress. Even conceding his problems on these fronts, it doesn't go far in explaining the lack of strong liberal policies. But I don't think its completely insignificant. So perhaps Westen just needed to tone that part of the article down.
What I mostly focused on from the article was the end, in which Westen tried to explain why Obama has governed in the manner he has. I agreed with most of what he wrote, and it seems like most of the bloggers critical of him don't disagree with that section. All in all, I think the reaction to the article has been fair and mostly correct. But I give Westen credit for posing the questions he did and posing some plausible explanations. I guess next time I would advise downplaying (perhaps by a lot) the effects of rhetoric and speeches and spending more time on the structural barriers in the way of the president or really anyone in gov't getting what they want.