And if he does, will history be as kind to him as it has been to FDR? The question is prompted by Charles Kesler’s fine (and short) essay introducing the new issue of The Claremont Review of Books. In it, Kesler notes that:
FDR wanted to save capitalism from itself, and he exploited so masterfully all the ambiguities in that objective that thoughtful people can be found, even today, who think he succeeded. They tend to forget that he changed not only capitalism but constitutionalism, and the latter unambiguously for the worse. They tend to overlook, too, that the relatively benign reform era they like to celebrate, the New Deal of public works projects and Social Security, is the New Deal stripped of its more corporatist, or to put it less kindly, fascist elements like the National Industrial Recovery Act. It was the unreformed Supreme Court’s "horse-and-buggy" constitutionalism that saved the country from that ugly experiment, and thus allowed future generations to praise FDR’s moderation. (emphasis added)In other words, FDR’s failures may have just as much to do with perceived success as do his outright victories. Had it not been for the effective buggy whip of the Supreme Court, the "New Deal" might be viewed today with much less rosy goggles. Will Obama’s new Supreme Court pick help in the short run and hurt him in the long run? Or are there enough "horse-and-buggy" constitutionalists left on today’s somewhat reformed Supreme Court to keep Obama in check?