Obama’s Pragmatism and Complaints From the Left

If Jimmy Carter is, as many consider him, our best ex-president, then Barack Obama must be one of history’s best president-to-come. Due to the combination of the financial crisis and the incompetence of the outgoing president support for Obama, along with hope for his success, is astronomical, even among many Republicans. Speculation about an Obama administration is based largely upon his appointments, including rumors of those not yet made, and even many conservatives are praising him for building a centrist, pragmatic economic team. With moderates and conservatives praising Obama, it is inevitable that some factions of the far left are questioning Obama. This has been a common topic in the blogosphere recently, with Glenn Greenwald discussing this today.

I don’t share the disappointment of those on the far left as I (along with many Democratic voters) never desired a far left economic program any more than I desired far right policies from the Republicans. I will have to wait and see what Obama does before judging. As I wrote before the primaries began, “My suspicion is that in a couple of years I will be writing a number of blog posts disagreeing with some of your actions as president, but things will be far better than if any of your major opponents were to win.” After the Bush years I primarily hoped for reality-based economic policies. Once the Democratic race came down to at most three viable candidates, I greatly preferred the pragmatism displayed by Obama over the Nanny State views of Hillary Clinton or the opportunistic class warfare of John Edwards.

Despite the attacks for being on the far left coming from the Repubicans, and perhaps the hopes that he is from a minority of Democrats, Obama made his views quite clear. As Glenn Greenwald wrote:

So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes.  But it wasn’t Obama who misled them.  It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered…

But Barack Obama is a centrist, establishment politician.  That is what he has been since he’s been in the Senate, and more importantly, it’s what he made clear — both explicitly and through his actions — that he intended to be as President.

Barack Obama was not elected by the far left or the netroots. He was elected by a coalition which included them, but also contained many more moderates, independents, and even Republicans.

The description of Obama as a centrist, establishment politician is somewhat true in economic matters and, while I might not agree with him on everything, this is how many of us who voted for him hope he governs. In other areas there continues to be  hope that Obama will govern based upon liberal values, including strengthening civil liberties, ending the influence of the religious right on public policy, defending reproductive rights, ending the ban on financing embryonic stem cell research, protecting the environment, ending torture, and returning to a reality-based foreign policy.

It should not come as a surprise that Obama has picked more centrist figures, many from the Clinton years, for his top positions. Bill Clinton was the only Democratic president in recent years and Democrats who have experience in Washington are most likely to have obtained it from working under Clinton. The economic crisis requires that Obama builds an administration which displays stability and competence, preventing the appointment of inexperienced outsiders to top positions.

Much of the work of government is also done by the appointees under the cabinet secretary position, and this is where there is greater possibility for bringing in new blood. The people brought into government at this level are the ones who will advance in future years and might be the ones who really change Washington. Policy is also developed far more in the White House than by the cabinet, and I expect Obama to be receiving a wide range of opinions, including from the left.

Cabinet members under Barack Obama will still be implementing the policies of Barack Obama. It is fortunate, not cause for panic, that many Republicans are pleased with Obama’s appointees as this will better enable Obama to achieve bipartisan cooperation to pass his policies. Many ideas which were considered far left in the past are now considered to be more centrist. If Obama’s policies are good policies, it is actually advantageous politically if they are considered to be pragmatic or centrist as opposed to leftist. We should judge Obama based upon the actual policies which come out of his administration, not by his appointees before he has even taken office or the labels applied.

SciFi Weekend: Woman in the Red Dress; Jack is Back; Jimmy Smits in Danger from Dexter?

In this week’s episode of Life on Mars, The Man Who Sold The World, Sam learns more about his father. While he is apparently in a coma in the present, the manner in which he learns about his past suggests that his life in the past is also real as opposed to merely something going on in his head.

Sam had said in previous episodes that his father left home after his fourth birthday party, but in this episode we find that he had repressed additional memories, including Vic attacking a woman in red. Both Annie and his mother wore red, and they suggested that Sam’s father might have killed Annie before Sam went back in time to stop in. However things get more confusing as Annie was only at the park because of a request from Sam, and presumably she would not have been there if Sam had not gone back in time. Sam also gave away his view that he was Vic’s son and I wonder if this will come up in the future.

Life on Mars will be on hiatus until January,and they ended the episode with a cliff hanger to keep us wondering until it returns. What is in the basement? When Life on Mars does return, it is fortunate to be placed after Lost.  Some other ABC shows weren’t so fortunate as it looks like Pushing Daises, Eli Stone, and Dirty Sexy Money will be limited to the currently planned episodes with no additional ones ordered. I figure that genre shows are always in danger of not succeeding, but I did expect Dirty Sexy Money to do better.  If the all out fight between Karen and Lisa couldn’t save this show, nothing will. Scrubs is moving to ABC with new episodes beginning in January.

Time travel also continues to play a major role in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. There is a new twist. Jesse remembers how Derick was tortured by Charles Fisher (Richard Schiff) but Derick does not recall this. It turns out he had a good reason for not remembering as it did not happen to him in his timeline, even if it did in Jesse’s timeline. This tells us that the future can be changed, but does that mean Judgment Day can be prevented?

Jack is back Sunday night as 24 has a TV movie to bridge the long gap from the last season it was aired before the strike. Redemption takes place in real time over two hours instead of twenty-four just as a new president is preparing to take office. 24 might have helped prepare the country for a black president with President Palmer. Now they have a woman president too late to help Hillary Clinton. Joel Surnow, whose conservative influence on the show was discussed here, is no longer with 24. The nature of the show still fits in better with a simplistic conservative world view, but it will be interesting to see if this changes with Surnow gone.

I love seeing the Miami backgrounds in Dexter such as the one above after having spent spring break in South Beach last year. I’ve also been wondering where the relationship between Dexter and Miguel (Jimmy Smits) is heading. Once Miguel learned about Dexter’s activities I assumed that one way or another he would wind up getting killed at the end of the season. It could be a case of getting killed in the line of duty while going after the Skinner, but I’ve also suspected that Dexter will wind up killing him. My suspicion of this outcome increased at the end of last week’s episode when Miguel went to Ellen’s house with the implication that he might kill her. If Miguel does kill for reasons not accepted by Dexter’s code it is quite plausible that Dexter would feel obligated to take care of Miguel.


The season finale of True Blood is also on Sunday night (preview above). There’s a lot to tie up, and I wonder if they will tie up the loose ends or if much of the story is to be continue into the second season. For those who have not been watching, HBO is planning some marathons of the show, including on New Year’s Eve. The second season is already in production, so hopefully there will not be the long wait between seasons which sometimes occurs on HBO.