Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sometimes NYT Op Gets It Right

After the Kuperman debacle on Iran, it is nice to see a column that makes some sense.  The basic argument is that Obama is not a revolutionary but a liberal that works through the system pragmatically.  Why is this so surprising?  Perhaps because Obama served so little time as a Senator, people project on him their hopes and fears more so than folks with an established record. 
Absent political constraints, Obama would probably side with the liberal line on almost every issue. It’s just that he’s more acutely conscious of the limits of his powers and less willing to start fights that he might lose than many supporters would prefer. In this regard, he most resembles Ronald Reagan and Edward Kennedy. Both were highly ideological politicians who trained themselves to work within the system. Both preferred cutting deals to walking away from the negotiating table.
Why is it so strange that a progressive might actually be a politician?  And try to be a successful one? 
This leaves him walking a fine line. If Obama’s presidency succeeds, it will be a testament to what ideology tempered by institutionalism can accomplish. But his political approach leaves him in constant danger of losing center and left alike — of being dismissed by independents as another tax-and-spender, and disdained by liberals as a sellout.
 This is the central point--that Obama faces a difficult situation, but what is his choice?  He could buck the system entirely, alienate the center, serve as a one-term, ineffectual President? 

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