Ezra Klein flags this Shelby Steele column, tweeting that "[t]his might be the worst op-ed I've ever read" and then posting a perfect take-down. But he skipped over the funniest part:
Reagan came into office as a very well-defined man with an unequivocal sense of direction. Agree with him or not, you knew what kind of society he wanted. Mr. Obama, despite his new resolve, remains rather undefined—a president happy to have others write his "transformative" legislation.Hey, Reagan was mischaracterized as a moron, sure -- but are we now supposed to believe that he wrote his own legislation? That he had a firm grasp on details? That Phil Hartman had it right, in the famous SNL sketch? Hey, Shelby Steele -- did you ever actually watch a Reagan press conference? Could you imagine Reagan holding a C-SPAN summit with Rosty and Moynihan and Tip O'Neill grilling him on on his major 1981 initiatives?
C'mon. To tell the truth, what Steele says about Obama, that he "may literally experience [him]self as a myth in the making," may or may not be true about the current president, but is surely true about Ronald Reagan, as Garry Wills memorably described him in Reagan's America. At any rate, Reagan had his strengths as a politician, but "didn't delegate writing legislation" obviously wasn't one of them; in fact, one of George W. Bush's selling points way back when was that good presidents set general goals and then let others carry them out.
To the point...as Klein implies, no one needs to explain why a Democrat elected president in 2008 tried to achieve universal health care. Any possible Democratic nominee would have had the same position.
(UPDATE: I am so not worthy...Adam Serwer totally nails this topic. By the way, I should be clear -- I'm the one taking the cheap shot, either at Steele or Reagan or both).