By Tom Cushing
Just who IS this Obama guy, anyway?Uploaded: Aug 9, 2011
It's tempting to begin this week's epistle with an inquiry about whether anybody feels better about last week's DC debacle, from an investor's vantage fully 15% below where you were way back in July. But this immediate Dow Jones tankage may be just be a chaotic stampede by the Wall Street herd – especially since the real economic damage is more likely to be evident in the further wounds the debt ceiling shenanigans will inflict on a reeling housing market, farther on down the undeveloped road.
It IS tempting, but I won't.
Instead, I'd like to try to provoke a conversation about where this President sits on the left-to-right political continuum. There are nearly unlimited lenses through which to view Mr. Obama's policies, including even the bleary beer-bottle goggles of those inebriates who loudly declaim him as a socialist. To the ardent progressive liberals who thought they'd found true love in 2008, he's been a bitter disappointment. Old-timey Dems are confused by his flat emotional affect, and his refusal to mount the bully pulpit and hurl rhetorical lightning bolts at GOP intransigents. And at least one commentator with nearly unassailable conservative credentials considers him "The Democrats' Nixon."
Bruce Bartlett consorted with Ron Paul in the 1970s (before it was cool), and was a senior economic advisor to both the Reagan and Bush1 Administrations. Writing in the Fiscal Times, he reviews the last nine Presidencies, and concludes that Nixon was remarkably liberal. He accepted the realities of both the New Deal and the Great Society, and presided over a broad expansion of Washington's regulatory reach – most notably the creation of EPA and OSHA; both agencies are despised by Right Wing plunderers of The Commons.
By contrast, Bartlett cites ample evidence that our current President has demonstrated a conservatism that confounds those who thought they were electing Obama the charismatic leader. Among the items: Obama's stimulus bill was half the size his advisors recommended, he caved on rescinding the Bush2 tax cuts (getting nearly nothing that Democrats value in return), his defense policies and personnel have pretty much stayed the prior course – and even his health care reform modeled itself on Mitt Romney's successful Massachusetts plan.
The best proof so far produced, however, was Obama's curious performance in the debt ceiling catastrophe, where he signed-on to a preposterous "fix" that overshot the political middle, and landed in the Boston harbor – deep in Tea Party orthodoxy. Polls repeatedly showed that most Americans favored a mixed approach of cuts and tax increases, but the outcome he approved ignored revenue – again.
So I know it's a hard swallow, Conservatives, but are you ready to acknowledge that Obama is a surprisingly pleasant bedfellow? Or is he just a pliant pragmatist? Or a lousy tactician and timid negotiator who's afraid to demonstrate his BATNA?
There's an argument to be made that every President disappoints his followers on either extreme by playing to The Middle, but does that explain this President's policies? Your turn to opine, Forum Faithful.