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September 07, 2011


Obama's supposed move to the center seems to be visible only to liberals. As Zeleny's article illustrates, lots of liberals are now complaining that he's too centrist and too accommodating. Yet, virtually all conservatives continue to complain that he's too far left. No wonder he's not popular.

I agree with the POV that he hasn't moved toward the center, or barely so. Zeleny offers one example: temporarily postponing the new ozone rule. As far as I know, that's the only example of Obama's repositioning. OTOH evidence of his continued leftism abounds, such as:

• Kowtowing to union interests, e.g., continuing the illegal effort to prevent Boeing from operating in South Carolina
• Tilting policy to help Dem supporters and punish Republican supporters, e.g., the unjustified raid on Gibson Guitars
• Continued support for tax increases, especially on the higher brackets
• Continued support for massive growth in government spending
• Continued vilification of Republicans, e.g., his recent comment implying that Republicans in Congress were acting in their own interest rather than the nation's interest.
• Continued opposition to undoing his unpopular Health Care law.

Obama's behavior is very different from Clinton's move to the center, when he announced, "The era of big government is over." If Obama really took an ax to big government, Brendan would no doubt argue that the bad economy would still make Obama unpopular. Unfortunately I don't think we'll get a chance to test that idea, because Obama doesn't show any signs of wanting to really move to the center.

It's perhaps worth noting that Bill Clinton's repositioning was largely accomplished despite his digging in his heels. Though he later took credit for welfare reform, the facts are that he vetoed two welfare reform bills, signed the third grudgingly and thereafter attempted to undermine it through the regulations that were promulgated. With respect to the budget, his OMB kept insisting on using unrealistically high assumptions about GDP growth, thereby limiting the extent to which budget cuts would be required. The disparity between the GDP growth assumptions of the OMB and CBO were a major issue in the government shutdown of 1995. Clinton may have run as a centrist but he governed as one only when he had little choice.

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