Editorial board member Brent Staples, who reviewed Randall Kennedy's 'Persistence of the Color Line' for the Sunday Book Review, discussed race, Obama, and 'rabid conservatives' at the front of the section.
Staples said his view of President Obama is partly shaped by what they have in common: 'We are both black men who moved to the mainly black South Side of Chicago in our early 20s. We both lived in Hyde Park and had lengthy associations with the University of Chicago, where I earned a Ph.D. in psychology and he taught law on one of the more conservative law school faculties in the country. Chicago, of course, is the home of the iconic free-market economist Milton Friedman and Leo Strauss....Conservatism is in the water there; it is not possible to be engaged there intellectually without absorbing some of it. Obama clearly went to Washington with a healthy respect for rational, principled conservatism. He was utterly unprepared for an encounter with rabid conservatives who would risk the economy to destroy his presidency. The debt ceiling debate made painfully clear that his rhetoric of compromise is useless - and perhaps even self-defeating - with an opponent who has taken compromise off the table. The burning question: Can Obama retool and recover from this?'