We don't know whether our president can't do what he said, or he never wanted to at all. But there is a sense in which the two possibilities are identical. Certain kinds of people can only really want to do what they can do.
Let's look at the
internet. You would like what you write to reach a large number of
people, and you post your ideas on a web site. You tell everyone you
think might be interested to go there. Many of them will tell their
friends to go there. But very quickly the friends of friends stop
referring to the site. Your site will be on search engines key word
lists, but at the bottom, so not much is to be hoped for there either.
reason for this is that the interest in what you write is tied to
knowing you personally. This is not because affection for you makes more
palatable what you write. But for the simple reason that being in
regular discussion with you makes a reader ready for reading what is
discussed in what you write.
Regular discussion now in
our country occurs only in isolated islands of friends. We have law
professor theorists like Posner at the University of Chicago writing
that people with different ways of life cannot understand or even
converse with each other, therefore politicians without ideas must
impartially weigh different interest in accord with their own
incommensurate interest. We have Yale philosophy professor Appiah write
the same, under the label Cosmopolitanism.
like our president live in the world of communication in which it is
assumed individuals cannot truly reach agreement with each other. They
learn how to speak so as to get elected. And then what do they do and
what can they do?
No matter how sincerely they have
spoken their words, they are not of the kind that a lone individual uses
writing his web log. They are of the kind that once written can be sent
onto friends who send onto friends endlessly. That is to say, they are
words that do not depends on a history of personal and continuous
discussion of what is best to do in life.
sits in his office, and then what? He has infinite means of
communication with the people of the country and other politicians, but
he is limited in what he can say. Limited by habit, by his own
experience of what succeeds and what fails. He finds that speaking in
his usual way the other politicians do not let him do what he wants.
There are good reasons for this, having to do with the nearly
overpowering influence special interests have on legislators.
Nevertheless if our president could speak in a different way, he would
start thinking in a different way. And see ways around the influence of
factions and money for election campaigns. Other presidents have done
it. The problem is he cannot do it. He does not live with people who
think that way. And we cannot expect more.
We must wait
for a return to real life and real communication between individuals.
We go back to our web logs with their limited readership, and wait for
the time the spheres of influence meet.