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President Obama: a 3-Way Appraisal

August 19, 2010

When I first launched The New Moderate three years ago, it was simply a collection of three-way debates on the issues. First we’d hear from Righty, our hidebound conservative, followed by his “progressive” nemesis Lefty. Finally The New Moderate would weigh in with a supremely sensible opinion that could also be surprisingly impassioned (and not always middle-of-the-road).

I’ve resurrected that three-way format for this week’s column, because I think it’s time our current president sat for his New Moderate portrait.

Righty: What is there to say about this unmitigated disaster of a president? Just pull up a chair and I’ll say plenty. First, I can’t think of a president with a shadier past: uncertain birthplace, Muslim upbringing, collegiate Marxism, cozy alliances with known terrorists and prominent black racists, early career as a “community organizer,” beholden to evil lefty billionaire George Soros and his nefarious scheme for world domination. Obama was the “Chosen One,” all right: mysteriously groomed for the presidency before he had even been elected senator, given a free pass by the liberal mainstream press and catapulted to office amid a flurry of mindless huzzahs and obsequious tributes. It couldn’t have been because he’s “black,” could it? (I put “black” in quotation marks because everyone seems to overlook the fact that Obama is actually biracial, including Obama himself.) I don’t know which hallmark of Obama’s presidency deserves more opprobrium: his socialist agenda or his pathetic indecisiveness and flip-flopping. He’s a radical in moderate’s clothing… a driven ideologue who looks forward to a socialist America with a nonwhite majority and Muslim muezzins calling from the minarets of mosques in cities across the country. When it comes to fighting terrorism, he’s an appeaser and our enemies know it. Every loyal, godfearing American must resolve to make him go down in flames as a one-term failure.

Lefty: I have one question about your reprehensible Obamaphobic tirade, Righty: It couldn’t have been because he’s black, could it? You racist right-wing fanatics are driving us to the brink of civil war… based on your insane (that’s right, I’ll say it again: insane) assumptions about Obama’s background and motives. When I watch you tea-baggers in action, as your warped ideas feed on each other and spread like a sinister virus, I truly fear for the future of our country. I’ll say this about Obama: he may not be perfect (can you think of a single president who was?), but he represents the best and noblest traditions of American liberalism: tolerance, fairness, idealism, activism and concern for the less fortunate. During his brief presidency he’s already saved the capitalist system from self-destruction (and you dare call him a socialist?), made healthcare reform a reality, and reversed the seemingly irreparable damage that the infamous Dubya had done to our international stature. Obama has shown a willingness to open dialogues with our enemies (how else are we going to persuade them?) and demonstrated grace, intelligence and class in everything he’s done. Granted, he’s too cozy with Wall Street honchos and moneyed lobbyists, and he hasn’t revolutionized our political system the way we had hoped. He needs to create public-sector jobs and put more muscle behind entitlements for blacks, gays and other oppressed minorities. But I have faith that Obama will emerge as the greatest and most progressive president since FDR.

The New Moderate:

Obama is an enigma: a progressive with a moderate temperament, a highly intelligent man who can’t seem to put his finger on America’s pulse, a likable man without the common touch, an inspiring and engaging speaker who’s been strangely ineffective at rallying the troops.

If he’s a socialist, as Righty and his friends would have us believe, why would he have spent nearly a trillion dollars bailing out the crippled potentates of American capitalism? If he’s weak on advancing the cause of minorities, as Lefty suggests, why would he have sued Arizona to nullify its new illegal immigration law?

Given his background, affiliations and aspirations, it’s hard to characterize Obama as a moderate. But he thinks like a moderate, and he’s taken grief from both sides in the best moderate tradition. I give him credit for aspiring to be everyone’s president — a difficult task in the best of times, and nearly impossible when the nation is polarized into mutually hostile camps. Minorities are disappointed that Obama hasn’t been more partial to their special interests. (Good for him!) Tea Partiers are livid about the taxpayer money he’s spent trying to lift us out of the hole that Wall Street dug for all of us. (More power to him!) When you’re everyone’s president, you can’t cater to any one group.

I’m disappointed that Obama hasn’t been a more transformational president — not in the sense of driving us toward a progressive vision of America, but in the sense of steering us away from our deeply entrenched system of big-money interests and government-by-lobby. I thought he’d be the man to restore ownership of our government to the people. I don’t know who’s pulling his strings (Soros? Wall Street? The military?), but he needs to break free from the ruling elites and assert himself if he wants to leave a distinguished legacy.

It might be that Obama was propelled to the presidency before his time. He could have used a couple of terms in the senate, learned how Washington works, honed his ability to schmooze and twist arms in the manner of Lyndon Johnson. He needs to get along with the obstinate Republican opposition — without either surrendering his principles or turning a deaf ear to their complaints. If anyone can learn on the job, Obama can. But the American presidency really shouldn’t be a learn-as-you-go proposition.

I worry about the burning, visceral, irrational hatred heaped on Obama from the Right. I even worry about his physical safety as the extremist rhetoric escalates to a bloodcurdling roar. In fact, I wouldn’t wish the presidency on my worst enemy during these godawful years. But Obama clearly wanted the job, and he’s cool enough to shrug off the assaults with his customary grace under pressure. What remains to be seen is whether Obama — or anyone — can pull this country out of its great dismal swamp and onto higher ground.

Summary: Obama is an embattled but gifted statesman who needs to discover and leverage his gifts ASAP.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2010 11:52 am

    I guess you have “Moderate’s Disease”, in which you make yourself experience and interpret extreme political behavior through the moderate lens, presumably in order to save yourself from the uncomfortable rough and tumble of life on planet earth (not a very moderate place…).

    Was the “New Deal” a “moderate” agenda as implemented by FDR? Was the collectivization of agriculture by Mao (or Stalin) a “moderate” political and economic policy? Of course not — they were extreme, and it’s easier to see that truth in hindsight.

    And much harder when we’re in the middle of it. Obama is no moderate, despite your seeming wish / desire / fantasy to make him so. Forget his style, intellect, demeanor, etc. and look at what he has done: forced socialized medicine on 270 million Americans (a move towards central government control of 1/8th of the entire economy); sued the state of Arizona over its attempts to enforce the rule of law and defend its sovereignty (and by extension, our national sovereignty); and driven up national debt to untenable levels without any return on investment other than lining the pockets of his fellow statist politicians and “czars”. There is also nothing moderate about his countenance on behalf of his Office and our country around the world: he is an apologizer and supplicant to our enemies and rivals and an antagonist to our allies (the UK and Israel in particular).

    He is what he is, and I’ll even give him credit for admitting as much on the campaign trail. He didn’t hide his socialist agenda, and didn’t hide his lack of belief in American exceptionalism.

    He is more honest about himself than you are.

  2. Bill Kern permalink
    August 19, 2010 12:05 pm

    I admire greatly your ability to emulate all of the camps’ rhetoric! I agree that Obama is trying to be all things to all. He’s not succeeding, unfortunately. He needs to figure out who he wants to be – and pursue whatever goals that person wants to achieve. He only really has a short time left to make a definitive mark – to put some muscle behind the health care rebuilding – I find it astounding that so many entrenched state organizations are spending so much effort to scuttle what’s already been enacted, to put some more legistlative teeth in financial reform – what we got wasn’t near what was needed. Etc, etc. If he wants to be known as a transformer of America, he needs to do it ASAP – after the fall elections, he most likely won’t have much clout left…

    • August 19, 2010 1:37 pm

      Bill: Good observations; Obama really is running out of time to restore his mojo. And yes, I always enjoyed doing impressions of famous people — why not impressions of right- and left-wingers, too?

  3. August 19, 2010 12:24 pm

    States pushing back on Obamacare? Of course you don’t understand it: it embodies passionate resistance, something to which the Moderate cannot relate. No doubt you would have been bewildered at the Boston Tea Party and thought: “What’s all the fuss? The King isn’t so bad.” And to the revolutionaries you would have said “RELAX”.

    But they didn’t, and now you get to enjoy being your moderate self. Just remember where that freedom came from, though: passion.

  4. August 19, 2010 1:35 pm

    sasoc: Don’t mistake me for a namby-pamby middle of the roader. Wait until someone tries to introduce sharia law into the U.S. And believe me, I was up in arms over the administration filing suit against Arizona for enforcing federal immigration laws. I pick my battles, though.

    I still don’t see how Obamacare is socialist: on the contrary, it actually forces us to buy insurance from the private sector, with no public option. And if a system that prevents us from going broke due to medical problems is socialist — hey, just call me Fidel. We need a healthcare safety net because medical costs today are simply unaffordable (at least for the non-millionaires among us).

  5. Priscilla permalink
    August 25, 2010 10:36 pm

    The problem with healthcare “reform” is not that it is socialist….although it is designed to lead eventually to a single payer system. The problem is that it is ruinously bad, passed via phony figures fed to the CBO, against the will of the majority of the American people and will lead to the destruction of all that is good in our current system ( and the American medical delivery system is the best in the world). Obamacare is already creating huge problems for small businesses, caused thousands of doctors to drop Medicare patients, and, in a pre-cursor to the “death panels” issue, the FDA has ruled that Avastin, a drug that demonstrably prolongs life for metastatic breast cancer cancer patients will not be paid for by Medicare, because it is not “cost effective”… other words, it does not prolong life long enough for young enough people to justify its cost. Bad stuff……..

  6. valdobiade permalink
    August 27, 2010 8:15 pm

    Priscilla wrote: … and the American medical delivery system is the best in the world…
    According to The World Health Organization’s ranking
    of the world’s health systems, the US on 37th place
    1 France
    2 Italy
    3 San Marino
    4 Andorra
    5 Malta
    6 Singapore
    7 Spain
    8 Oman
    9 Austria
    10 Japan
    11 Norway
    12 Portugal
    13 Monaco
    14 Greece
    15 Iceland
    16 Luxembourg
    17 Netherlands
    18 United Kingdom
    19 Ireland
    20 Switzerland
    21 Belgium
    22 Colombia
    23 Sweden
    24 Cyprus
    25 Germany
    26 Saudi Arabia
    27 United Arab Emirates
    28 Israel
    29 Morocco
    30 Canada
    31 Finland
    32 Australia
    33 Chile
    34 Denmark
    35 Dominica
    36 Costa Rica
    37 United States of America

    38 Slovenia
    39 Cuba

    Voting “against the will of majority of Americans” was an easy task controlled by health care monopoly. Why 10% of American workforce, that is on unemployment and without health care, would vote against a public option?

  7. Priscilla permalink
    August 28, 2010 9:55 am

    Valdo, Sorry, but the WHO is a tool of the anti-US United Nations, and uses, shall we say, an “interesting” methodology to come up with this list. The next time you hear of anyone from the US going to Dominica or Costa Rica to get medical care or surgery, you let me know……if that question were reversed (i.e. foreigners coming to receive state-of-the-art medical care in the US) you would not have enough space to list them.

    Health care monopoly? You’ll have to explain that one, because I don’t even know how to respond…are you talking about insurers, doctors, hospitals, drug companies, what?

    Here’s an interesting quote from an interview with Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana:

    “I note with special sadness that first and foremost amongst the bill’s consequences will be the probable demise of the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP). This program is currently providing health insurance to 50,000 low-income Hoosiers. With its Health Savings Account-style personal accounts and numerous incentives for healthy lifestyle choices, it has been enormously popular and successful.
    Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, soon to cover one in every four citizens, will not only scoop up most of HIP’s participants, but will also cost the state between $3.1 and $3.9 billion over the next decade. It is hard to see how my successors as governor will be able to avoid a steep state tax increase to pay for it. Meanwhile, our medical device companies and small businesses will shed jobs as they wrestle with the taxes and penalties levied to help finance Washington’s “reforms.”
    Of course, it’s a misnomer to even refer to this as “reform.” It doesn’t reform anything. Instead, it perpetuates and magnifies all the worst aspects of our current system: fee for service reimbursement, “free” to the purchaser consumption, and an irrationally expensive medical liability tort system. It’s a sure recipe for yet more overconsumption and overspending.”

    This law is terrible. We can only hope that most of its worst aspects will be stripped out or defunded before they can bankrupt us. Even if it is repealed, we’re left with the problems that led to this disaster in the first place, and the idiots in Washington who came up with this “solution.”

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