Those are real issues, but Obama has done strikingly little to grapple with them. Calls for a president to show “leadership” are often demands for heightened rhetoric that is emotionally satisfying but unlikely to be productive. But here, there were tools available to Obama—beginning with simply communicating to Senate Democrats, who still control their chamber, that this is an important problem—that he seems rarely to have used. As far back as March 2010, the blogger Jonathan Bernstein, one of the most astute analysts of the presidency on the web, was calling this passivity “Obama’s biggest failure.” Despite some tentative movement since then, there’s little reason to expect a different verdict today.
That aside, the National Journal piece is an important look at an underappreciated story. And there’s a good opportunity here for another reporter to pull out a particular agency—say, one of the housing agencies, or the OCC, where Obama has just nominated a new director—and take a deep look at how policy might be different, and how people’s lives might be affected, with strong leadership in place. Any takers?