Paul Krugman, who has never moved beyond the Obama-Clinton primary battle, will never miss a chance to paint Barack Obama as a right-winger. He was given another opportunity to repeat his usual nonsense in response to Bruce Bartlett writing a poorly-reasoned post entitled Barack Obama: The Democrats’ Richard Nixon? Krugman ignores all the fallacies in Bartlett’s post because it goes along with his visceral and irrational hatred of Barack Obama.
Bartlett based his argument on these claims:
- His stimulus bill was half the size that his advisers thought necessary;
- He continued Bush’s war and national security policies without change and even retained Bush’s defense secretary;
- He put forward a health plan almost identical to those that had been supported by Republicans such as Mitt Romney in the recent past, pointedly rejecting the single-payer option favored by liberals;
- He caved to conservative demands that the Bush tax cuts be extended without getting any quid pro quo whatsoever;
- And in the past few weeks he has supported deficit reductions that go far beyond those offered by Republicans.
While these do show that Obama is a moderate economically, this does not come close to showing that Obama is to the right of Nixon as Krugman claims. His stimulus bill was less than what many on the left wanted, but it was tremendously more than those on the right (as well as many in the middle) would tolerate. While Nixon further escalated the Viet Nam war, Obama has been working towards disengaging from Bush’s wars (even if more slowly than many of us would prefer). His health care plan was similar to Romney’s, but was also to the left of the plans advocated by any of the Democratic candidates just four years before he was elected. The health care battle showed that anything more liberal than his plan would have no chance of passing in Congress.
Obama compromised on the extension of the Bush tax cuts in a deal which, among other things, provided an extension of long term unemployment benefits. Krugman should know that the claim of not getting any quid pro quo whatsoever is totally false. Similarly the last claim is also untrue, with many Republicans pushing for far more reductions in spending than Obama is agreeing to. In addition, Obama has pointed out the necessity of getting our fiscal house in order for progressives who want to be able to finance their plans in the future.
Bartlett also cherry-picked certain items, ignoring many all the social issues where Nixon was far to the right of Obama. Nixon promoted the culture war which led to the growth of the religious right, while Obama promotes a liberal social view which is in complete contrast to the Nixon years. Obama has been promoting the rule of law, while Nixon attempted to circumvent the electoral process in what came close to being an attempted a coup d’état.
There is one point where I partially agree with Krugman:
Obama gets no credit for his moderation, and never will. No matter how far right he moves, Republicans will move further right; and nothing he can do will keep them from denouncing him as a radical socialist.
It is true that Republicans will call Obama, as well as any other Democrat in the White House, a socialist. What Krugman misses is that Obama’s goal is not to be accepted as a conservative Republican (even if Krugman is deluded into thinking this is what he is). Obama’s goal is that he will receive credit for his moderation from the same coalition, including the independents, which elected him in 2008. I know that this is frustrating to those on the far left, and there are many areas where I disagree with Obama, but this is far preferable to a true right wing Republican.