Paul Greenberg

No doubt about it, Barack Obama is the president of the future. The worrisome part is that he may always be. If there is a presidential decision that can be put off, a bold new policy that can be negotiated into just a continuation of the old, a way to change momentum into inertia ... this president's your man.

There's not a pressing problem he can't be trusted to discuss, and discuss, and discuss for so long that it remains a problem but only more complicated. Slowly but never surely, halfway measures become quarter-way measures become ... the same old policies. But now they're covered by still more layers of bureaucracy, expense and government debt. Without improving or even basically changing anything.

At this point, our ever new president's accomplishments are much like his Nobel Prize -- a laurel for promise rather than performance.

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A bold new direction in health care has become a change in health-care insurance, which is fast becoming not so much a change as just an expansion of the old, ramshackle system. A system all can agree is broken will remain broken but in a more complex, more up-to-date way that will require more elaborate forms.

But that's all right; the forms will all be electronic. Isn't that the important thing? For as we know, computers never go down and Washington can fix all our problems. Don't fret, it'll all work out in theory. If only in theory. This much is sure, however: It'll cost a lot.

Even if something emerges from all the talk and votes and negotiation and renegotiation and polspeak and general dithering over health care or just its insurance, any real changes, if there are any, wouldn't go into effect till 2013 -- after the president is safely re-elected on a platform, no doubt, of change, hope and audacity. None of which ever seem to materialize.

It's all a lot like his economic stimulus, which somehow never seems to dent the unemployment rate. On the contrary, joblessness continues to grow in tandem with the deficit.

But who cares? This president is articulate even if he doesn't actually say anything, a great leader even if he isn't actually leading. It's the talk that counts, don't you see? The conferences and confabs and the glib explanations, those are what matter. Those are what the daily headlines are about. And the mantra running through them is always: To save more, spend more! And if you can't appreciate that, what are you, some kinda racist?

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.