In a piece about David Plouffe‘s The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory (Viking Adult), Arianna Huffington contemplates the gap between the ’08 Obama campaign themes and the way things have devolved since he took office. Caution bordering on timidity, status quo half-measures, playing softball with the right, etc.

“How did the candidate who got into the race because he’d decided that ‘the core leadership had turned rotten’ and that ‘the people were getting hosed’ become the president who has decided that the American people can only have as much change as Olympia Snowe will allow?

“How did the candidate who told a stadium of supporters in Denver that ‘the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result’ become the president who has surrounded himself with the same old players trying the same old politics, expecting a different result?

“How could a president whose North Star as a candidate was that he would ‘not forget the middle class’ choose as his chief economic advisor a man who recently argued against extending unemployment benefits in the middle of the worst economic times since the Great Depression?

“I’m referring, of course, to Larry Summers. According to a White House official I spoke with — later confirmed by sources in the White House and on the Hill — Summers was against the extension. And it took a lot of Congressional pushing back behind the scenes for the president to overrule him.

“And, according to another senior White House official, when foreclosures or job numbers come up at the regular White House morning meeting, Summers’ response is that nothing can be done. Nothing can be done about skyrocketing foreclosures or lost jobs.

“Nothing can be done — pretty much the opposite of ‘Yes we can,’ isn’t it?”

And this from Bill Maher, also on the Huffington Post:

“Yeah, I’m disappointed, too. I thought we were sweeping into power; I thought change meant Change. I believed all that talk about another First 100 Days, a la Roosevelt. Well, that didn’t happen. The question is, is this as good as it gets from President Obama, or is he pacing himself? He may have a four and eight-year plan and they included a first year of just gettin’ to know you and not gonna rock the boat too much. Well, Mission Accomplished on that.

“It’s still too early to lose hope in a guy as smart and talented as Barack Obama. But I would counsel him to remember: If you’re going undercover to infiltrate how Washington works, so you become one of them for a while, to gain their confidence, well, it can be just like all those movies where a cop goes deep, deep, DEEP undercover with drug people and — fuck, he’s a drug addict, too!

“Logic tells me that really smart guys like Obama and Rahm Emanuel know better what they’re doing than I do. They certainly know things I don’t know. I think we have the same general goals and beliefs. And this is what they do for a living — I wouldn’t even try it. But I will never stop having this doubt: that maybe if they had really charged in there riding the forceful energy of the historic election, and acted like it was an emergency moment — which it was — they could have gotten some big victories right up front, and there really could have been an historic ‘first hundred days’ for this administration and the country.

“Instead of what happened, which is the Obamas got a dog.

“It could have worked — the country had given its endorsement to ‘…and now for something completely different.’ There might have been a way to knock the Republicans back on their heels right away, with the argument that ‘The American people demanded we make these changes, and you are unpatriotic to stand in their way.’

“We’ll never know. Because that moment passed, and now it could follow the pattern of World War I and devolve into boring, static trench warfare where nothing really gamechanging happens while both sides slowly bleed to death.”