The Nation's Pulse

That Darned Obama

He's just so infuriatingly moderate!

By 6.11.10

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Liberals who bristle at being called socialists probably shouldn't exit the house wearing Che Guevara T-shirts. They also should avoid protesting, en masse, that President Obama, who in only one year has substantially shifted American government to the left, is too darned conservative. Both behaviors are like standing in the foxhole and screaming as loudly as you can. They tend to give away your position to the enemy.

This week, several thousand liberal activists gathered in Washington to protest what they view as President Obama's timidity in pursuing the hard-left agenda he promised them.

"This is the greatest reform president since Lyndon Johnson, and every progressive in the movement is dismayed and disaffected," Robert L. Borosage, the co-director of the liberal Campaign for America's Future, told the New York Times. "Some of that is expectations that were shattered."

That quote says a lot. Borosage knows that Obama is the most liberal president since Johnson. He knows that Obama is moving the left's agenda more successfully than any president in the past 40 years, and yet he is "dismayed and disaffected." How on earth can that be? How can one see one's own ideology sustain its greatest movement forward in close to half a century and be… disappointed?

It takes a particularly extreme and rigid ideologue to consider President Obama insufficiently liberal. They got universal health care complete with compulsory coverage that will induce gut-wrenching pain in the bowels of every libertarian in the nation when it's time to whip out the checkbook and pay for it, and still they're whining that the public option got dropped?

But who can blame them for being a little bit confused? Honestly, they don't know whether they or the conservatives are the ones who were had.

Ever since Obama became the Democratic nominee in 2008, the left has delivered two contradictory messages about him: 1) he is a radical change agent who will fundamentally transform American government, and 2) he is a common-sense moderate who will simply undo the radical excesses of the previous administration.

These incompatible summaries of Obama were invented and peddled by his own campaign. The couldn't both simultaneously be true. But in the hands of a brilliantly talented politician, they could both be made believable to their target audiences.

Obama told liberals that those rube middle-Americans were clinging to their guns and religion because they were too ignorant to know any better, and he was the one to enlighten them. And he told middle America that Ronald Reagan was a transformative president, bad teachers should be fired, we'd all get to keep our current health plans, and he'd never, ever, cross-his-heart-and-hope-to-die tax the middle class.

How out of touch is the left? It sees Obama raise taxes on people of all incomes, mandate that every individual carry health insurance, transfer close to $1 trillion in "stimulus" funds to unionized and public-sector workers, take over General Motors, join a foreign head of state in characterizing Arizonans as racist, undo Bush's compromise on stem cell research and Clinton's on gays in the military, and amass the greatest debt in the history of the United States while pursuing Keynesian pipe dreams… and it complains that he's not going far enough fast enough.

Earth to the left -- it's been only a year and a half!

It ought to be obvious to anyone acquainted with reality that Obama's actions are far more leftist than his rhetoric. As the left has its agenda slowly implemented, the middle is starting to wonder why that nice guy with the cherub smile and the smooth lines doesn't call anymore.

When the far left went after Clinton for Don't Ask, Don't Tell and welfare reform and NAFTA, one could understand the frustration. Clinton was an opportunist perfectly willing to sell out the left for his own personal glory. That's gotta breed resentment. But now that the far left is going after Obama for being too centrist, it's hard to be sympathetic. You get the feeling that these people would actually vote for Che Guevara if they had the chance. And some of them would be disappointed if he didn't duplicate here all the glories of the Cuban Revolution.

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About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.