Or, more precisely, that he’s no more of a socialist than George W. Bush was. Aim high, Barry.

I don’t think the Times needed any reassuring. On the contrary:

“Well, I just think it’s clear by the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system. And the thing I constantly try to emphasize to people if that coming in, the market was doing fine, nobody would be happier than me to stay out of it. I have more than enough to do without having to worry the financial system. The fact that we’ve had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.”

He concluded the brief call by saying, “I think that covers it.”

The phone call came after the president was asked aboard his plane: “Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?”

He was clear in his first answer: “You know, let’s take a look at the budget – the answer would be no.”

“Is there anything wrong with saying, ‘Yes’?” a Times reporter pressed.

There is, of course, something wrong with saying yes, which is why The One’s straining so hard to rebrand hard-left statism as non-ideological, centrist “pragmatism,” driven by nothing more than a desire to find common-sense solutions to the problems of the day even though he was campaigning on these “solutions,” like health-care reform, long before there was any economic problem. That was the takeaway from his SOTU — that he doesn’t believe in big government, a claim that’s had pundits from George Will to Christopher Buckley laughing ever since. Riddle me this: If Obama’s intervention in the market is such anathema to his worldview, why do sinister, Snidely-Whiplash-ish comments about the crisis being such a wonderful opportunity for the left’s agenda keep popping out of the mouths of people in his cabinet? If Dick Cheney called an economic catastrophe an opportunity for the right, Pat Leahy would want to hold Senate hearings on it. Good grief.