This is longstanding Obama shtick but feels more anachronistic by the day. Being seen as post-partisan and “pragmatic” was key to his 2008 Hopenchange message, reassuring centrists and libertarians that their fears of electing a liberal were overblown. Then he got elected, rammed through a giant stimulus, passed a landmark redistributionist health-care boondoggle, ran trillion-dollar deficits, demanded tax hikes on the rich, blocked Keystone as a favor to environmentalists, inevitably “evolved” on gay marriage, and of course remained a stalwart defender of the right to abortion. He didn’t even bother, really, with the “pragmatist” crap last year, concluding that he was better off turning out his base and trying to hold centrists by demonizing Romney than pushing more post-partisanship BS that no one would believe. Good call, as it turned out. He got reelected — and then began his second term with a big gun-control campaign followed by a call for action from Congress on legalizing illegals. Right down the middle, our Barry.
I don’t know why he’s come back to this now, five years in. Maybe, as the walls close in from the ObamaCare debacle, Democrats feel some atavistic impulse to return to what worked in the past. The “extremist Republicans” narrative was a sterling success for them in 2012. Think it’ll help with someone who’s now paying an extra $200 a month in health-insurance premiums?
Despite those problems, the White House expressed optimism on Sunday that Democrats could regain control of the House of Representatives, which has blocked many of Obama’s top policy priorities – on ideological grounds, Democrats would say.
The president called that chamber a barrier to progress in his remarks and said there would be broad consensus on issues such as immigration reform if politics were stripped away.
“I’m not a particularly ideological person,” he said, saying pragmatism was necessary to advance the values that were important to him.
Says Jonah Goldberg drily of Obama’s self-styled pragmatism, “Saying he only cares about ‘what works’ at this point in his presidency is more of a problem given that his signature achievement, you know, doesn’t.”
Simple question: Don’t liberals consider Reagan an ideological conservative even though he deviated from conservative orthodoxy in certain ways? Obama’s been surprisingly hawkish on drone strikes and NSA surveillance despite his liberal pedigree; Reagan, depicted as a crazed warmonger by some of his lefty critics, stuck to diplomacy with the Soviet Union and withdrew from Lebanon not long after the barracks bombing. He also signed the most permissive amnesty for illegal aliens in modern American history and gave up on abolishing the Department of Education despite running on it in 1980. The entitlement state weathered eight years of his presidency (and 12 years of Bushes) to deliver the fiscal crisis that threatens the country now. In fact, one of the left’s favorite ways to needle tea partiers is to claim that their hero, the Gipper, governed too moderately to be nominated by the GOP today. Does that mean Reagan wasn’t really an ideological conservative?
Of course not. No one, Obama included, disputes that he was. He split from doctrinaire conservatism when political realities of the moment forced him to, but his vision was one of smaller government, lower taxes, and robust defense spending to counter communism. It’s also political reality that tends to force O’s deviations to the center. If he had refused to use Bush’s counterterrorism tools and the country had suffered a major terrorist attack, the political fallout for Democrats would have been brutal. He could have crafted his own entitlement reform deal with Democrats in 2009 when they controlled Congress, but he made no serious gestures towards it until the GOP reclaimed the House and Boehner gave him a reason to discuss it. Even his signature boondoggle, which the left now likes to remind people is a public/private hybrid, is a hybrid of necessity: Not only would it have been a bridge too far politically for a few centrist Democrats in Congress to pass single-payer, it would have been enormously disruptive to health coverage in America, needless to say. Obama himself has said in the past that he’d prefer single-payer if we were starting from scratch — pretty ideological! — but that economic reality is what it is, leaving a hybrid system the only option. ObamaCare’s not his preference, it’s just the best he can do. That’s not “ideological”?