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Posted at 8:36 AM ET, 01/16/2011

Is the 'Third Way' back?

By Jennifer Rubin

Bruce Reed, Joe Biden's new chief of staff, was one of the founding fathers of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council, which helped propel Bill Clinton into office and did battle with the left wing of the party. Rather than to describe him as "center-left," it is more accurate to say "centrist Democrat who foiled the left."

The selection of Bill Daley as Obama's chief of staff was the first bit of evidence, but Reed's hiring removes any doubt as to the direction in which Obama is heading. Most telling, Reed was the executive director of the Simpson-Bowles debt commission. He was widely credited with drafting the very serious report that included major cuts in entitlements and real tax reform. Notably, the commission's report did not envision repeal or major refashioning of ObamaCare, which was why Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and other conservatives refused to sign on.

As one veteran strategist on Capitol Hill put it: "This is another clear indication that this administration, with re-election in the forefront of their consideration, is now moving to the DLC and far away from the Daily Kos." It also suggests that the agenda may well entail compromise on everything with the Republicans, except ObamaCare.

It's a reasoned and potentially effective strategy. Let's assume that by 2012, Obama is vigorously waging war in Afghanistan, has agreed to a tax proposal with top marginal rates in the 22-25 percent range, is willing to support a major revision of Social Security, has gotten serious on school reform and has made meaningful cuts in discretionery spending.

He goes up, in my hypothetical, against Mitt Romney, who cannot use ObamaCare against the president, since he supported a very close approximation of it in RomneyCare. On what basis could Romney oppose Obama? There are social issues, but those are hardly front and center these days. Unless unemployment remains at historic highs, it's hard to see a lot of difference between the new-and-improved, Reed-influenced Obama and Romney. Sure, voters may question Obama's sincerity or may hold him accountable for poor stewardship of the economy. Still, you see at least a path to re-election for him, unless his base sits on its hands.

In the short run, Reed's appointment suggests that there are opportunities for deals with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (who may attract a handful of red state Democrats) and House Speaker John Boehner. (Expect filibuster reform to disappear; it'll be the left that wants to slow down the Reed-Daley-Obama-McConnnell team.)

For the Republicans, a principled attack on ObamaCare will now be more important than ever. They must explain why there can be no fiscal reform unless they "repeal and replace" ObamaCare. They must emphasize the unintended consequences that will flow from ObamaCare. And they must present their own plan. All that sounds like Paul Ryan will be in high demand.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 16, 2011; 8:36 AM ET
Categories:  Obama White House  
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Comments

It appears the leftists are so appalled by these thoughts that their fingers won't work!

It does seem that Obama is pulling in people who represent a marked departure from his first two years of work. The Senate will be a place of boiling intrigue and incivility for the next two years. The hated filibuster will be worked overtime by...the Left.

If the Republicans do things right, they should be able to present a coherent and acceptable program of legislation aimed at curing the ills brought on by liberal Obamaism. Whether they can get any of this passed through the Senate or through the President remains to be seen. I think there will be a spirited election cycle, both for the Senate and for the presidency in 2012. Obama can't skate if nothing happens to significantly improve the economy.

Posted by: jafco | January 16, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer, I'd love to believe your comments above, but I am dubious. In the past two years Obama has staffed the executive branch to the brim with leftists: EPA, DOJ, FCC, SEC, NASA, refusal to build the border fence, no fast tracking for the Health care legal challenges, Defense cuts, etc., etc., etc.

Is Obama going to change his directives to all these agencies? EPA still intends to regulate CO2 in defiance of Congress and the popular will. The FCC is still trying to regulate the internet. The principal focus of NASA is apparently still "Muslim outreach". What a crew.

Posted by: TYoke | January 16, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

“it's hard to see a lot of difference between the new-and-improved, Reed-influenced Obama and Romney. … For the Republicans, a principled attack on ObamaCare will now be more important than ever.”

Gosh, Jen, you sure picked an easy [and obvious] straw candidate to crush. On the other hand, indirectly you have pointed out which GOP candidate the NYT etc. will be contriving to foist upon the public a year from now, to the extent that the Liberal media will have any credibility left by then.

I agree with TYoke. Reed and Daley make excellent window dressing. But Obama will be busy playing the leftist agenda on all fronts in all Department and Agencies though myriad regulations, most of which will sneak around underneath the RADAR; in fact a lot of it may behind Daley's back. It will be the same old Obama, Chicago-style, down among the weeds.

Posted by: nvjma | January 16, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

“it's hard to see a lot of difference between the new-and-improved, Reed-influenced Obama and Romney. … For the Republicans, a principled attack on ObamaCare will now be more important than ever.”

Gosh, Jen, you sure picked an easy [and obvious] straw candidate to crush. On the other hand, indirectly you have pointed out which GOP candidate the NYT etc. will be contriving to foist upon the public a year from now, to the extent that the Liberal media will have any credibility left by then.

I agree with TYoke. Reed and Daley make excellent window dressing. But Obama will be busy playing the leftist agenda on all fronts in all Department and Agencies though myriad regulations, most of which will sneak around underneath the RADAR; in fact a lot of it may be behind Daley's back. It will be the same old Obama, Chicago-style, down among the weeds.

Posted by: nvjma | January 16, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Top marginal rates of no more than 25%? This and other fantasies to be revealed on the next episode of Soap. Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah…

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 17, 2011 1:19 AM | Report abuse

You sound like a fiancee planning to give hubby a makeover after you get married. Good luck with that. You really think we're interested in abandoning our values and espousing yours? You really think we're going to let anyone keep the SSI we've paid in all our working lives? Go ahead and delude yourself that we're on the verge of caving.

Posted by: laboo | January 17, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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