“…when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century. He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it. But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.”

— Drew Westen

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Drew Westen on Obama. Westen’s psychologically informed critique of the president may be a little facile in places, but it poses a number of real questions, such was ‘”What does Obama believe in?,” and locates in them his failure in a time where American democracy is being sorely tested. On a related note, Frank Rich by now month-old inaugural column for New York Magazine is also worth reading, if nothing else for its bravura opening.
  • The International Best Comics Poll at Hooded Utilitarian. An ambitious attempt at identifying a canon of comics involving over two hundred comics professionals. The final list is predictable and deeply flawed, but it’s still a thought-provoking exercise for those of us who like to ponder such things. Compare with The Comics Journal‘s decade-old top 100 list of English-language comics. I’ll have a little more on this later in the week.