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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 12/13/2010

Liberal disappointments = Obama moderation?

By Jennifer Rubin

There has been much discussion over the last week that Obama's capitulation on taxes should be taken as a sign that he's not really all that liberal. That's wrong for a simple reason: the Republicans forced Obama to relent. He didn't give way on his agenda because he is, like Bill Clinton, really a centrist down deep.

On ABC's This Week George Will explained why liberals are so bent out of shape over the tax agreement:

[T]he reason there's so much vitriol surrounding this is this comes at the end of a long list of liberal disappointments. I made a little list of them: card check for unions, not going to happen; climate change legislation, not going to happen; the EPA says we'll do it by regulation, they're now backing off those; Guantanamo Bay, still open; "don't ask/don't tell" not being repealed; Afghan war escalated; federal pay frozen, which goes right at sort of the Republican theme that government is the problem.


You can add to those items the increased use of drone attacks, the continuation of George W. Bush's Iraq policy, the failure to jam a settlement freeze down the Israelis' throats and the absence of a comprehensive immigration bill.

Obama would have marched through his entire liberal agenda -- if he had the votes. If not for the pesky voters and Congress, both of whom side with former Vice President Dick Cheney on the issue, he would have closed Guantanamo. On the Middle East, he tried his best to bully Israel, but Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu hung tough. Obama losing on his key agenda items doesn't make him moderate. It makes him inept or unrealistic.

Recognizing there are certain things a president can't do (e.g. retreat from a war after declaring it to be critical to our national security) doesn't mean his instincts are sound. It means he can, after two years of cajoling by conservative critics and a lack of viable alternatives, be forced to capitulate to reality.

The lesson for conservatives? Fight, fight, fight. And for voters? Given his druthers, Obama will pursue the most left-leaning course that he can get away with. Republicans will spend the next two years forcing Obama to do what he doesn't want to do. The issue for the 2012 election will be: do you want to give Obama another shot at doing all the things he couldn't accomplish in the first term, or is it time for a conservative alternative?

But no one should be confused: Obama is no Third Way Clintonian. He's a grumpy liberal who's frustrated he can't do all the things he wants.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 13, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign, President Obama  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Hillary Clinton's Middle East speech sounds retreat
Next: Challenge to ObamaCare's individual mandate survives first test

Comments

Paraphrasing Milton Freidman, in politics, you need to force the wrong people to do the right things. That's exactly what has happened in the last few weeks. The election was a restraining order on Obama. He would have turned this country into Norway if he could have kept Congress for the next 6 years.

Posted by: jmpickett | December 13, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

jmpickett:

The current Senate Rules requiring 60 votes on Bills is the issue of the two edged sword. Nothing will get through as both parties become the Party of No in the Senate.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 13, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

rcaruth:

We shall see. It is relevant that the House controls the purse strings, and we all remember the Golden Rule. Can it use the "gold" effectively against an opposition senate and president? That certainly depends on how competent the house republicans turn out to be, and, perhaps even more, whether it is Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell who builds the effective majority in the senate. As of now it appears that Obama has become largely irrelevant, but I can well recall when we thought that of Clinton.

'Twill be an interesting game to watch.

Posted by: meta-materialist | December 13, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: meta-materialist
"We shall see"

Meta,we know right now,that whether you are a righty/Lefty,a 2/3ds majority is now needed to pass anything. The Senate rules nullify the House,and nullify the Senate majority. Do you not think that the tactics that coldcocked Obama,could be used the same way against a Conservative lanslid in 2012. If the Conservatives win the Presidency,the House,and 60 Senate seats,then,maybe,you'll get what you want,but is this your idea of how our Democracy was intended to work. What destroyed Obama,could do the same to Palin.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 13, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"Obama would have marched through his entire liberal agenda -- if he had the votes. If not for the pesky voters and Congress, both of whom side with former Vice President Dick Cheney on the issue, he would have closed Guantanamo"

Pretty funny stuff, and of course a complete lie. Exactly where did voters ever get a say on Gitmo? Congress didn't vote in favor of Gitmo, they voted not to bring the inmates to the US for trial or incarceration, so where does that leave the President? He can't send them to other countries and he can't let them go so people without any understanding of the matter foolsihly say that Gitmo is somehow ratified.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 13, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

"On the Middle East, he tried his best to bully Israel, but Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu hung tough"

Now THAT'S entertaining!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 13, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Obama finally got a severe slap in the head by reality with the elections. He had been ignoring, dismissing or denigrating majority opinion in the country.
Can you hear us now?

Posted by: spamsux1 | December 13, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Now that Rubin has resigned from Contentions/Commentary,we're hearing some improved opinions there.

Good Advice from Amos Oz and Sari Nusseibeh
Evelyn Gordon - 12.13.2010 - 9:51 AM
I wouldn’t expect the Obama administration to take advice from ideological rivals on how to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks. But it’s puzzling that it remains equally deaf to advice from two prominent Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.

In a moderated conversation published this month, Amos Oz and Sari Nusseibeh were in complete accord:
OZ: … [T]he first issue we need to deal with is the refugee issue, because this one is really urgent. Jerusalem is not urgent, it can wait. It can go unresolved for another generation, it can be unresolved for three generations. The refugees are hundreds of thousands of people decomposing in dehumanizing conditions in refugee camps. Israel cannot take these refugees back or it would not be Israel. There would be two Palestinian states, and there would be no Israel. But Israel can do something, along with the Arab world, along with the entire world, to take those people out of the camps, into homes and jobs. Peace or no peace, as long as the refugees are rotting in the camps Israel will have no security.

NUSSEIBEH: I agree. Whether there is or isn’t a solution, the refugee problem is a human problem and it needs to be resolved. It cannot just be shelved day after day after day in the hope that something will happen. The human dimension is far more important in this whole conflict than the territorial.
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/evelyn-gordon/384069

Rubin would never have brought this into play at Contentions.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 13, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Jenn. That is exactly the point I have been making amidst all of this overblown hooplah surrounding the tax deal and Obama's supposed "triangulation". You have it exactly right, which also means that the Left needn't worry. Their man hasn't changed his stripes. But Boehner and McConnell are going to have a tricky balancing act ahead of them. They need to hang tough, talk nice, and persuade the middle that they are the reasonable ones looking to compromise leaving the President a choice on whether to work constructively or to be obstinate and obstructive. Even if it would benefit him politically, Obama simply can't pull a Clinton and hijack the GOP agenda a la Gingrich post '94. It's just not in his nature.

Posted by: RereadBurke | December 13, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Jenn. That is exactly the point I have been making amidst all of this overblown hooplah surrounding the tax deal and Obama's supposed "triangulation". You have it exactly right, which also means that the Left needn't worry. Their man hasn't changed his stripes. But Boehner and McConnell are going to have a tricky balancing act ahead of them. They need to hang tough, talk nice, and persuade the middle that they are the reasonable ones looking to compromise leaving the President a choice on whether to work constructively or to be obstinate and obstructive. Even if it would benefit him politically, Obama simply can't pull a Clinton and hijack the GOP agenda a la Gingrich post '94. It's just not in his nature.

Posted by: RereadBurke | December 13, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Go tell a Palestinian that Obama has been a bully to Israel. They'll laugh in your face, as will anyone with the capacity for rational, objective thought in relation to your broader argument. By writing such trite, hollow, and logically flawed opinions like this, you only prove that Obama has more character and conviction in his pinky nail than all of the conservative blogoshphere combined. Yet another columnist solidyfing the WaPo's slide into journalistic obscurity.

Posted by: nickprzy | December 13, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

They need to hang tough, talk nice, and persuade the middle that they are the reasonable ones looking to compromise leaving the President a choice on whether to work constructively or to be obstinate and obstructive

-------------

Ha! That's a rich one. Keep tearing apart the small minority of the opposition who are willing to comprimise with you (Obama), and you'll SURELY come across as reasonable. Sorry, but a majority of the voting population is going to have a hard time forgetting the party-line vetoes of the last two years and the obvious "make Obama fail at all cost" tactics put on blatant display by the right.

You have a very long way to come before true non-partisans view you folks as being capable of reason. And the more you read a mid-term election as a mandate for complete conservative rule, the farther you will go away from that goal.

Time to cut out the B.S. and work together.

Posted by: nickprzy | December 13, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

There was no moderation. It's been a surrender and giving away the house. Clinton would have stood up to the pressure.

Posted by: USDA | December 13, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

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