The Radical Left versus Obama

Last week, as President Obama was announcing his pick for surgeon general—a Roman Catholic African-American and MacArthur “genius” award winner who has spent her career caring for the poor on Alabama’s Gulf Coast—I was on the phone with the Princeton professor and public intellectual Cornel West. He was reiterating his complaint, which he had aired weeks earlier to Bill Moyers, that Obama is too much in the thrall of what he calls the “neoliberal elites” (by which he means primarily Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner) and, as such, his economic reforms have not gone far enough to help the poor. This is a disappointment to West, who campaigned avidly for the president. “The moment of euphoria is over,” West told me. “We need intense pressure on [Obama]. Poor people are suffering. Working people are suffering.”