Quote of the Day

“‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ made $54 million this weekend. It’s about small-brained creatures who rise up and take over the Earth. First they form political groups called Tea Parties.” –Jay Leno

Fareed Zakaria on Obama As Pragmatist

Fareed Zakaria responds to recent attacks on Obama from the left by describing his pragmatism:

Obama is a centrist and a pragmatist who understands that in a country divided over core issues, you cannot make the best the enemy of the good.

Obama passed a large stimulus package within weeks of taking office. Perhaps it should have been bigger, but despite a Democratic House and Senate, it passed by just one vote. He signed into law an unprecedented expansion of regulations in the financial-services industry, though one that did not break up the large banks. He enacted universal health care, through a complex program modeled after Mitt Romney’s plan in Massachusetts. And he has advocated a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines tax increases with spending cuts.

Maybe he believes in all these things. Maybe he understands that with a budget deficit of 10% of GDP, the second highest in the industrialized world, and a debt that will rise to almost 100% of GDP in a few years, we cannot cavalierly spend another few trillion dollars hoping that will jump-start the economy. Perhaps he believes that while banks need better regulations, America also needs a vibrant banking system, and that in a globalized economy, constraining American banks will only ensure that the world’s largest global financial institutions will be British, German, Swiss and Chinese. He might understand that Larry Summers and Tim Geithner are smart people who, in long careers in public service, got some things wrong but also got many things right. Perhaps he understands that getting entitlement costs under control is in fact a crucial part of stabilizing our fiscal situation, and that you do need both tax increases and spending cuts — cuts that are smaller than they appear because they all start with the 2010 budget, which was boosted by the stimulus. Is all this dangerous weakness, incoherence and appeasement, or is it common sense?

This won’t necessarily please Obama’s attackers from the left who see this centrism as a betrayal of their principles. In response to this, I wish Zakaria had also pointed out that such pragmatic centrism is largely a result of the differences between being in the legislature and being in the executive branch. A president must govern and cannot stick to the pure  principles of one side.  A member of Congress can stick to principle on what they vote for while a president is limited to governing based upon what can actually pass Congress.  In failing to understand the limitations our our system, some on the left express ignorance comparable to what we regularly hear from the tea party supporters.
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