Obama’s preternatural confidence is intended to be infectious. His presidency begins as an exercise in psychotherapy for a nation suffering a crisis of confidence. But neither the nation nor the government that accurately represents it is constructed for consensus. And he will be unable to fault his office for his frustrations because, more than any predecessor except the first, the 44th president enters office with the scope of its powers barely circumscribed by law, and even less by public opinion.
Obama’s unprecedented power derives from the astonishing events of the past four months that have made indistinct the line between public and private sectors. Neither the public as currently alarmed, nor Congress as currently constituted, nor the Constitution as currently construed is an impediment to hitherto unimagined executive discretion in allocating vast portions of the nation’s wealth.
Perhaps the point of the “cynicism” Obama scorned in his speech is to, um, point this out. And perhaps the point of Obama’s scorning “cynicism” was to keep what should be an alarming fact from actually alarming the public.