Politics The Opinionsphere


I try to focus my reading on people I find reasonable and intelligent who write about a world in which I recognize. But I also check in with some more right wing and progressive blogs that are further out there. What I often find are rather opposite takes on Obama with the final conclusion being the same: He’s not one of us.

To take 2 somewhat random examples — John Hinderaker of Powerline:

For some reason, liberals seem surprised that Americans have not warmed to the Obama administration’s policies, like government takeover of health care; bailouts and government ownership in multiple industries; wasteful and ineffective “stimulus” spending; unheard of deficits; massive tax increases slated for next year; and a foreign policy that perversely alienates our allies and caters to our enemies. There has never been a time in our history when most Americans would have approved of such policies, yet liberals are somehow convinced that today’s manifestation of longstanding voter attitudes represents a unique and sinister animus against Barack Obama and his administration….

52 percent of likely voters disapprove of his performance. Note that many of these people voted for Obama. They have been surprised and disappointed by his leftist agenda…

I think what Klein has in mind here is that Obama’s policies would make the U.S. much more like western Europe, so it is “nativist” or “isolationist” to oppose them…

Conservatives are making, every day, serious public policy arguments on issue after issue that resonate with most Americans. Liberals like Klein, meanwhile, can’t formulate an argument to save their lives, but fulminate impotently against conservatives, with invective substituting for analysis at every turn.

The evidence of bad faith in this passage is pretty clear: Bailouts are Obama’s policy? Government takeover of health care? Describing the scheduled expiration of some Bush tax cuts as “massive tax increases.” And of course, his main thesis entirely misses the point Joe Klein was making. Joe Klein was saying the anger towards the Obama administration was rooted in a “classic American…populism” (to quote from the single sentence Hinderaker does)– and then invoked a number of historical precedents. Hinderaker takes this as evidence that Klein sees the populist right’s animus towards Obama as…”unique.”  Aside from this idiocy or bad faith, the overarching message is clear: Obama is far left and alienating the country because he is so far left.

On the other side, Kirk James Murphy, M.D. over at FireDogLake takes Obama’s talk of tackling the deficit and the health care reform law as an attack on entitlements:

If someone you care deeply about depends on Social Security – or will depend on Social Security – call them up today and tell them you love them. Because Team Obama has targeted Social Security…and your loved ones are just the MOTU’s version of collateral damage.

In this telling, Obama has sold out to corporate interests and is following a stealth right-wing agenda because…well, I’m sure that was tackled in previous posts.

The underlying premise of each is that Obama and those who support him must clearly be acting in bad faith — and what they say should be discounted. So, if Obama claims he is trying to bring down the structural deficit in order to save entitlements — most everyone could agree with that goal even as they disagree with the individual steps to get there. However, who can agree with Obama attempting a radical reshaping of America into a totalitarian welfare state? Or the elimination of that most beloved entitlement, Social Security?

The crazy thing about all this is that what Obama is clearly focused on is protecting and modestly improving America’s status quo — which neither these insensate right-wingers or progressives will acknowledge.