The Good Kind of Failure

Mark Halperin’s report card on Obama’s first year makes Barack Obama look like a really great president and elite political reporters look really dumb and petty. The list of five things Obama has done well, of course, reflects well on him. But look at the things Obama has done poorly! If a failure to woo “official Washington” is one of the major failings of an administration, then I’d say the administration is doing pretty well. Especially because if you read the item, it’s clear that by “official Washington” Halperin means something like “my friends” rather than anything actually “official”:

In 2008 the country clearly craved new leadership that would sweep into the capital and change the ways of Washington. But politically and personally, the First Couple and their top aides have shown no hankering for the Establishment seal of approval, nor have they accepted the glut of invitations to embassy parties and other tribal rituals of the political class. In the sphere of Washington glitter, the Clintons were clumsy and the Bush team indifferent, but the Obama Administration has turned a cold shoulder, disappointing Beltway salons and newsrooms whose denizens hoped the über-cool newbies would play.

Shocking that the über-cool don’t want to go to embassy parties. The people I know who work in the administration, though by no means “top aides,” generally seem quite busy. They’re trying to govern the country under difficult circumstances! And I think the public will generally sleep easily knowing that more time is being put into policies aimed at improving people’s lives than on hankering for the “establishment seal of approval.” Similarly for “creating stars.”

And how, exactly, does Halperin think Obama should have changed the tone unilaterally? He’s always maintained his own famously calm, somewhat aloof tone. A large number of his opponents have decided to act insane. Is that really a big failing?