February 5, 2010


Obama dismisses Blanche Lincoln's plea to be more centrist (Charles Lane, February 4, 2010, Washington Post)

The pivotal moment came when Sen. Blanche Lincoln of deep-red Arkansas, a centrist who’s on her way to defeat in November, practically begged the president to repudiate “extreme” liberals -- a clear reference to the Nancy Pelosi-led House -- and tack to the center. Arguing that the Democrats’ ambitious legislative agenda was sowing job-destroying “uncertainty” in the business community, she asked: “Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”

Obama’s reply, in a nutshell: Sorry, Blanche.

If the price of certainty is essentially for us to adopt the exact same proposals that were in place for eight years leading up to the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression -- we don’t tinker with health care, let the insurance companies do what they want, we don’t put in place any insurance reforms, we don’t mess with the banks, let them keep on doing what they’re doing now because we don’t want to stir up Wall Street -- the result is going to be the same. I don’t know why we would expect a different outcome pursuing the exact same policy that got us into this fix in the first place.

But the president is not only against a centrist shift on policy grounds; he also thinks it is a political loser:

If our response ends up being, you know, because we don’t want to -- we don’t want to stir things up here, we’re just going to do the same thing that was being done before, then I don’t know what differentiates us from the other guys. And I don’t know why people would say, boy, we really want to make sure that those Democrats are in Washington fighting for us.

Two things struck me as extraordinary about Obama’s reply.

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism -- the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating; it’s not what any Democrat who’s questioning his approach is advocating. But the president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns.

The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically.

We can't really be 13 months into this presidency with people still just figuring out that all he argues with are straw men that he sets up and that he doesn't care about any of his colleagues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 5, 2010 5:44 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus