Now that Obama has selected his second Supreme Court nominee, passed health care, and made known what he wants on financial sector reform, climate change, foreign policy, and other areas, I wanted to draw your attention to this subject anew.
All of the fear (and hope) that he’s a transformational Liberal seems increasingly out-of-touch with how he’s actually governed. As this article catalogues, just think:
- Health care: Passed up single payer. Cut deals with all the major industries (except insurers) and settled for very incremental reform;
- Financial crisis and reform: Continued Bush bailout policy and is settling for incremental changes to the way Wall Street operates;
- Stimulus: Did one one-half as large as economists said was needed, consisting of one-third tax cuts. Won’t ask for more even though unemployment still 10%;
- Climate change: Wants middle of the road bill with low targets for CO2 reductions that is industry-friendly;
- Iran: Pursuing Bush policy of containment (albeit much more adroitly), not direct engagement;
- Judiciary: Two middle-of-the-road Supreme Court nominees. Guantanamo still open. Executive order to allow assassinations of American citizens (without any due process);
- And so on.
Maye he should be doing all of this (although it’s worth noting that the Republicans opposed each and every one of these actions and acted as though Obama was proposing Leninism or something.)
Now, perhaps he’s really more liberal than he’s acting. Maybe he’s just resigned that he cannot get any major change out of the Senate since the GOP requires 60 votes to declare National Pitted Prune Month. But, even where he has more unilateral control over policy (Iran, IMF, China), he has acted as a centrist. This is not FDR or LBJ.
Is he Eisenhower instead? This guy says Yes:
In all these areas Obama is ruling, or trying to rule, by taking positions that are at the technocratic good-government center, and then taking two steps to the right – sacrificing some important policy goals – in the hope of attracting Republican votes and thereby demonstrating his commitment to bipartisanship. On all of these policies – anti-recession, banking, fiscal, environmental, anti-discrimination, rule of law, healthcare – you could close your eyes and convince yourself that, at least as far as the substance is concerned, Obama is in fact a moderate Republican named George H.W. Bush, Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Colin Powell.
Another commentator points out that Obama seems to be making little effort to change our political vocabulary to challenge conservative ideology, even though we have had a dozen major teachable moments (financial collapse, BP oil spill, Tea Party excesses, etc.).
I remain a supporter, given the alternative (Palin et. al.) and the fact that it takes a while to change the Titanic’s course — especially AFTER it hits the iceberg. What do you think?