Again, it’s only in Klein’s imagination that anybody believes in “this kind of thing”—that a president has superpowers or deserves singular blame. Oddly, while our ignorance is central to his attack, Klein concedes that we understand that a constitutional balance of powers limits the presidency: “Green Lantern theorists don’t deny any of this.”
The inconvenient truth is that Klein’s kind of thinking lets the president off the hook, unaccountable for promises broken and opportunities lost. Rather than change Washington’s culture of polarization, zero-sum game politics, and spin, Obama surrendered to it almost immediately. On health insurance reform, government debt, and loosening immigration laws, Obama shares blame with obstinate House Republicans for fumbling potential compromise. On climate change and gun control, Obama knew (or should have known) his rhetoric was setting up voters for disappointment. Rather than roll back Bush-era terrorism programs that curb civil liberties, Obama deepened them.
The launch of the Affordable Care Act and the worsening of conditions at the Veterans Affairs Department are emblematic of Obama’s inattention to the hard work of governing. He is slow to fire poor-serving Cabinet members and quick to dismiss controversies as “phony scandals.” To the Obama administration, transparency is a mere talking point. The great irony of his progressive presidency: Democrats privately admit that Obama has done as much to undermine the public’s faith in government as his GOP predecessor. The Green Lantern Theory is an excuse for failure.