Is it compromise? Or what he wants to do anyway?

Various posts I’ve read around the blogosphere the past few days have me rethinking my recent post about Obama’s commitment to compromise——that you never win the whole ball of wax, so you should accept that compromise is inevitable.
So does that explain why we’re in the situation we’re in? Where the president is suggesting shared sacrifice means the poor lose some of their Social Security while the rich … well, their Social Security will be cut too, so it’s all equal, right?
Some views around the blogosphere:
•Glenn Greenwald’s view is that the president is positioning himself exactly where he wants to be: He’s a right-of-center guy at heart and cutting Social Security and not taxing the rich are his choices (I’ve linked to one post, there are multiple others).
•Several posts at Lawyers Guns and Money have argued that Obama is an effective liberal president, possibly one of the most effective we’ve had. And that given the opposition in Congress and his own party, he’s done as much as possible in that direction (Obamacare, requiring insurers cover contraceptives, ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). Lance Mannion argues similarly that this is the best that could be done in the current political climate.
•Various posts at Hullabaloo seem to see the president as staking out the smart political ground (in his own eyes). By showing himself as a moderate, contrasting himself with “extremists” on both sides, he makes himself appealing to the moderates. And hey, are the leftists going to vote for Rick Perry?
There’s some truth to all of these. Which has the most truth?
Beats the hell out of me.
It’s certainly true we’re better off with Obama than we’d have been with McCain (though Greenwald argues parts of Ron Paul’s agenda are closer to what liberals want than anyone else in the race). And there’s no way his policies are 100 percent the fault of Congress. Congress didn’t send us to war in Libya (or Yemen, or Somalia). Congress didn’t tell Obama not to prosecute torturers, grant immunity to telecoms that participated in wireless eavesdropping, prosecute whistle blowers or extend the state secrets privilege (basically arguing that courts shouldn’t even look at cases the White House claims involve national security).
In domestic policy, it’s murkier. Contrary to some of the LGM posts, I do believe the bully pulpit can be effective——if not to actually pass legislation, at least to shift perceptions. As several bloggers have pointed out, if everyone agrees that raising taxes will destroy America and slashing spending is the only answer, it’s very hard to make a case for government spending anything.
And I do think Obama seems to rush to the center awfully fast——a particularly foolish policy when dealing with people who obviously aren’t going to meet in the middle when they can tug him further to the right.
On the other hand, maybe the political climate is against him. Most of the press take it as proven fact that the budget must be balanced and slashing Social Security is the only possible solution. If Obama tried staking out a leftwing position as an opening gambit, would the press pile on in outrage? Is he being smart politically?
Like I said, I don’t really know. Thoughts?


Filed under Politics

6 responses to “Is it compromise? Or what he wants to do anyway?

  1. Pingback: A fistful of links « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pete

    I’m squarely in the Glenn Greenwald camp.

    I also agree with Hullabaloo who sees the president as staking out the smart political ground (in his own eyes). I also think that what Obama thinks as the smart political ground is infact full of peril, and that Obama would be a lot better if he stopped thinking about the 2012 elections and started doing the right things – things that he advocated (or seemed to advocate) in 2008.

    Let us look at Iraq for example. This is one area where Obama has complete control. When Bush was President, Obama said that Bush should get out of Iraq. This is an issue that got him a lot of traction. He said that he was the only candidate who got Iraq right. Initially he said he would pull out in 16 months. Now he is pressuring the Iraqis to let US troops stay beyond 2011, a date which is even past the one Bush signed up on.

    One thing which Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly said is that Obama has resulted in forging a bi partisan compromise on many things that liberals had opposed under Bush.

    On Iraq, Obama is essentially doing what McCain would have done, But had McCain been elected and had he been pushing for US troops to stay in Iraq after 2011, a lot of the left blogosphere would have been up in arms.

    • frasersherman

      I’m inclined to agree with Greenwald too. Though in fairness, LGM did specify that its assessment only applies to domestic policy.
      I agree with you wholeheartedly that Obama’s have rendered most of Bush’s security policies acceptable to both sides.

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