Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday's trackings

A relatively progressive historian and academician writes today on CNN that, on balance, President Obama can't drift too far towards the center--he needs liberals:
"If he wants to hold onto enthusiastic liberal support, the president must argue passionately and energetically for jobs programs and finishing work on health care reform. Unlike Clinton after 1994, Obama still has a Democratic Congress, with sizable majorities. Liberals can help Obama to stimulate support for his legislative proposals, increasing pressure on moderate Democrats, and to develop a reputation for being an effective and action-oriented leader -- a reputation that can be as compelling to moderates as evidence of trying to cut deficits."

He argues that alienation from their liberal base in the past hurt Democratic Presidents Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. But--but...here's the rub, isn't it? Prof. Zelizer argues that, in the end, taking action and passing legislation will earn Obama the support and trust of "moderates" and the center. But will it? If the center just doesn't like the health care legislation, as polls indicate they don't, will they really give Obama credit for ramming through unpopular legislation? Will they really say, "well, at least he's doing something"?? Progressives in this country are convinced that such is what many ordinary Americans will say. I'm not so sure.

There's certainly no question, though, that liberals and progressives are very, very restive. Check out today's column from very liberal NY Times columnist Bob Herbert, who writes:
"Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map: the anti-Iraq war candidate who escalated the war in Afghanistan; the opponent of health insurance mandates who made a mandate to buy insurance the centerpiece of his plan; the president who stocked his administration with Wall Street insiders and went to the mat for the banks and big corporations, but who is now trying to present himself as a born-again populist. Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won’t be able to close it."

Wow. And now even CNN's opinion polling has President Obama at only 49% approval, 50% disapproval. Tough days for the administration.

By the way, I suspect it's because of the many poll numbers coming out in the past month or two looking like this that now Obama is adopting Republican rhetoric and talking about spending freezes.
But his proposal seems to have gotten Paul Krugman as angry as Bob Herbert!...

And by the way, once again President Obama realizes a mistake--too late:
"After weeks of denials from the White House that the health care reform effort failed to exhibit the transparency President Barack Obama promised on the campaign trail, Obama is conceding that locking the public out of key discussions was a “mistake.” “We had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right,” Obama told ABC’s Diane Sawyer Monday. “But I had campaigned on process—part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up, transparency. ...The health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don't know what's going on. And it's an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.”

Folks tried to tell him that weeks ago.