Obama and the Left

Greg Sargent has posted comments from David Axelrod made to a group of bloggers regarding movement talk of Obama moving towards the center:

I’m not going to change the nature of this town and the nature of our politics….But we tend to sit on the back of the truck and look at what happened before, and then define what’s happening now in the context of what happened some other time.

So, Bill Clinton repositioned himself to the center, and that’s the prescription for what you do and so on. I guarantee you, as God is my witness, we have not had a repositioning discussion here. We have not talked about, “let’s move three degrees to the right.” That’s not the way we view this.

It is true that we have to go back to first principles and really think about what it is that drives us and what it is that has been so central to Barack Obama’s public life and outlook. Because some of that has been sort of ground down in the minutia of day-to-day governing here…

I mean, there’s nothing that the President said last night that I couldn’t draw a straight line from to speeches that he has made way back to 2004.

I got a reporter’s inquiry, `the President seemed very optimistic and he seemed to be talking about American exceptionalism last night, and is this a reaction to the elections?’ And I said, go back to his convention speech in 2004.

When the President got the call that he was going to give the keynote speech at the convention in 2004, I was with him. We were driving in a car in downstate Illinois, on some dark road somewhere with bad cell service. So we had to call back and confirm that he actually was going to be the keynote speaker, because the call got dropped. And the first thing he said was, “I think what I want to do is wrap my story in the larger American story and talk about what it is that makes us who we are.”

And it’s something that he believes deeply in, and it’s what he talked about last night…I mean, there’s no doubt he is progressive in his outlook and that’s what he believes in. But he has never been particularly dogmatic…His fundamental view is you don’t have to agree on everything, or even most things, to work together on some things. And so there was no sort of grand repositioning…

But I’m not going to defeat this. I had a politician in this town say to me, after the speech in Tucson, “Boy, that was a great speech. I can see he is really thinking about re-election.” And I’m thinking, “What are you talking about?” Because I spoke to the President before and after that speech, and I’ll tell you what he was thinking about more than anything else. He was speaking about a nine-year-old girl who was about the same age as his girl. And he was pretty broken up about it. And all he wanted to do was speak to that moment.

But everything in this town gets evaluated in that way, and that’s just the way it is. Anybody who says that, I will give them a volume of Barack Obama speeches going back many, many years, and I will defy them to say, where has he changed? Where is he different? Where is his basic approach different than it was when he started on this journey five and six and seven years ago?

Yes, the Obama who gave the State of the Union Address is the same Obama who served in the Senate and campaigned for president. One reason some might see a difference is that Obama was forced by the economic conditions present upon taking office to change his priorities and propose more government spending than he otherwise would have. Of the two big government programs which Obama might have desired upon taking office, health care reform and addressing climate change, one was accomplished and the other is not currently achievable in Congress.

It is rather absurd to concentrate upon labels such as whether Obama is a centrist or a progressive as opposed to evaluating the policies on their merits. He is a centrist based upon international standards, but is also far to the left of where the Republican Party is. As for his policies, there are definitely areas where I wish he was more liberal, but these are not the areas where he has been receiving criticism from many on the left recently. Increasing American competitiveness is a reasonable and liberal goal when it means calling for improving our infrastructure and educational system. Evaluating regulations to determine whether they are needed and effective while ensuring that we have the regulations we need to prevent abuses is such a common sense approach that I cannot believe that some on the left see this as a betrayal.

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  1. 1
    ship of fools says:

    I thoroughly agree with you.  Thanks.  I’ve never felt that the Pres has changed anything, in ideology or whatnot, and that it was the economy that really distracted him from what he wanted to do … I think he’s still right on the $ that health care is our biggest problem.  I work in the industry.
    Anyway, I get pretty frustrated at the left’s frustration, and I’ll tell you this — If I ever hear anyone out there, on the left, who sat out the 2010 midterms or anyone who intends to sit out elections again, I will bend them over my 57-year-old knee and give them what-for.  Mark my words, kids, Pres. Obama is your last chance (unless someone challenges him successfully from the left, of course …) and if you don’t seize it, it’s the dark ages for you.  I’m outta here in 8 years and counting, so it’s no skin off my back.  I’ve lived 40 years at least somewhat politically aware of the fact that the majority of those years were positively soul-crushing.  You don’t know how good you have it right now …

  2. 2
    Madison Carrington says:

    RT @RonChusid: Obama and the Left. Comments from Davide Axelrod. #p2 #p21 #topprog http://bit.ly/dPTxw9

  3. 3
    Robert Hill says:

    RT @RonChusid: Obama and the Left. Comments from Davide Axelrod. #p2 #p21 #topprog http://bit.ly/dPTxw9

  4. 4
    Jim Z. says:

    Waiting with great anticipation for Obama to doublecross the American people on Social Security.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    I’ve never seen someone attacked for something they have not done as much as Barack Obama. This includes attacks from both the left and right. Before the State of the Union, Obama was being attacked from the left based upon claims that he was going to announce cuts in Social Security during the speech. The claims turned out to be false, but the attacks continue.

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