Obama’s just looking better and better to me (and the UnParty) all the time

And no, this isn’t just because the Republicans who would oppose him seem engaged in a contest to see who can be the biggest whack job. It’s more about Obama himself.

Earlier, I indicated that Obama was, after a weak outing in 2008, looking more and more like the Energy Party candidate for 2012.

Well, now… and I’m even more happy about this… he’s looking more and more like he wants the nod of the UnParty.

I saw this most clearly reading a piece in the NYT’s Week In Review from Sunday, “Obama, Searching for a Vision.”

Well, first off, I don’t think Obama’s searching for a vision. I think he’s got one, and it looks clearer, and better, every day. Perhaps he is, as the piece suggests, “being pressed as never before to define what American liberalism means for the 21st century.” At least, pressed by some.

But what I think he’s doing is something much higher and better — defining pragmatism for the 21st century. This is what I’ve always liked about him, but as he comes to embody it more fully, as the right hates him more passionately and the left whines louder about how disappointing he is, I see him more favorably than ever.

Perhaps this can be explained most simply by the fact that he keeps doing stuff I agree with. Take this passage from the piece:

Mr. Obama has always cast himself as a pragmatist and he seems to be feeling his way in the post-midterm election environment. In some areas, he has retreated. The decision announced last week to try the accused Sept. 11 plotters in a military commission at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, represented a 180-degree reversal under pressure from congressional Republicans and some Democrats. His embrace of a free-trade pact with Colombia continued a new emphasis on trade for a Democrat who once vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta.

The war in Libya represents one of the most complicated issues for Mr. Obama as he sets out his own form of modern liberalism. The hero of the anti-war movement in 2008 effectively is adopting Mr. Clinton’s humanitarian interventions in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s as a model, while trying to distinguish his actions from Mr. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most of that I knew about, and have applauded. But somehow I missed that he had shaken off the completely irrational, amoral opposition of Big Labor to the Colombia Free Trade pact. Way to go, Mr. President!

Most political commentators, trapped in the extremely limiting notion that the politicians they write and speak about must either be of the left or right, can’t make him out. But he keeps making perfect sense to me. Perhaps I should send a memo out to the MSM letting them know that there’s a third way they can think of a politician (actual, there’s an infinite number of ways, but let’s not blow their little minds; one step at a time). There’s left (as “left” is popularly and imperfectly described) and right (as “right” is popularly and imperfectly described), and then there’s Brad Warthen. As in, “The candidate’s recent statements have been Warthenesque,” or “That was a distinctly Braddish move he made last week.”

It would open up whole new vistas for our national political conversation. Certainly a broader landscape than what we’re used to, with its limited expectations.

I LIKE a guy who at least tries to give us health care reform. I thought he didn’t go nearly far enough on that, but now that I see Republicans’ internal organs have turned inside-out in apoplexy at what little he’s done, I suppose he lowered his sights out of compassion for what REAL reform would have done to them.

I like a guy who realizes that closing Guantánamo (as both he AND McCain wanted to do, and generally for sound reasons) and trying all those guys in civil courts was impractical, and moves on.

And folks, please — he was never the “anti-war” candidate. Come on. He considered Iraq to be the “wrong war” — a respectable position to take — and that the “right war” was Afghanistan. Yeah, I have a beef with his timeline stuff, but at least he’s left a hole in that wide enough to drive a Humvee through. He’s been pragmatic about it. And yeah, maybe he got out-toughed by the French, but that’s a GOOD thing. Let France feel like the knight in shining armor for once. Maybe it will be less surly in the future.

But seriously, the guy just looks better all the time — from an UnParty perspective.

24 thoughts on “Obama’s just looking better and better to me (and the UnParty) all the time

  1. Brad

    I love it! Notice how Steven couldn’t even get out “Puke” on his first try?

    At least I got a strong reaction out of somebody…

  2. Brad

    Now all I need is a strong reaction from Bud about that awful warmonger Obama and what a disappointment he is, and the president’s UnParty credentials will be complete.

  3. Doug Ross

    Pragmatist: one who gets elected saying one thing and does the opposite.

    He’s surprised me in that he is more poll driven than Clinton and less of a leader than Jimmy Carter. If I were a Democrat, I’d be very disappointed.

    And you thought McCain would have been better. Still??

  4. Brad

    No, Doug, that is NOT what “pragmatist” means. And that does not describe Obama. Only if you actually believe something as unlikely as “he was the anti-war candidate” does a cynical observation such as yours have any bearing upon reality.

    And I still think what I thought in 08 — that of the available alternatives, Obama and McCain were the best choices in each of their respective parties.

    But since I’ve had more opportunity to observe him over the last couple of years, I like Obama better than I liked him in November 2008. I was very concerned, for instance, that he opposed the Colombia deal — something that a lot of my readers had trouble understanding at the time. It did not seem consistent with what I saw as Obama’s good qualities. Now, by changing his position on that, I believe he’s acting more consistently with the Obama that I liked in 08. Essentially, he’s resolved a conflict in his own character. And that’s a good thing.

    I realize that slavish consistency is essential to you. To me, it’s abhorrent. A person who does not grow and learn in office — who continues to vote “no” when the rational, well-informed answer is “yes,” just because that’s the way he ran back when he didn’t know as much as he knows now — is the person to be avoided.

    And I know you’ll never see eye to eye with me on that.

  5. Doug Ross

    People normally have basic beliefs you can count on. When they change those beliefs, you have to ask why. Was he that naive about domestic and foreign policy that he was so easily convinced to reverse positions? Or was he smart enough to know what he needed to say to win and now knows what he needs to say to get re-elected?

    Sorry, I havent seen any leadership. I’ve seen a guy whose motto appears to be “The buck stops there”

  6. bud

    If I were a Democrat, I’d be very disappointed.

    Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe this liberal. Obama is evolving backwards. I’m not slavishly devoted to a president who sticks to his guns regardless. But his response to the crazy conservatives in the budget debate is to capitulate quickly then give his base a lecture about the virtues of compromise. All this makes Brad happy but the country is moving backwards rapidly. Why bother to vote when your guy wins and he does exactly what his opponent wanted to do? Sad.

  7. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    @Doug– Sometimes people learn more about something and find out that their “basic beliefs” were based on faulty information. If those people are ethical, smart or even just decent, they change said “basic beliefs.”

    For example, at some point ordinary decent people had to change their basic belief that the world was flat. etc. etc. etc.

  8. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    and as far as Burl/Brad’s representing all the people goes, if the average position of all the people is 50, but the Congress is at 0, doesn’t the President then need to come in at 100 to balance it out? If the President stands at 50, we’ll end up with 25, which is just what the evildoers on the Right want, bwah hah hah!

  9. Doug Ross


    If you were running for President, wouldn’t you attempt to gain enough knowledge about the position to form well-crafted opinions on difficult subjects?

    I mean, if tomorrow, Obama came out and said he was for extending the Bush tax cuts, privatizing Social Security, and banning gay marriage, wouldn’t that give you some cause for concern about how much he’d put into thinking about those subjects for the entire time he was in the Senate and running for President?

    It’s hard to convince me that the guy who basically received a coronation from the Democrats in November of 2008 is anything near what the majority of people who voted for him expected.

    And, Brad, I’m guessing you believe that John McCain has become more of an informed pragmatist on the illegal immigration issue now that he’s had more time to study it, right?

  10. Mike

    One reason that candidates who might represent the “sensible middle” would have a hard time is that both sides of the ideological spectrum in an almost reactionary way will always want to know where “sensible middle” candidate stands on things like abortion, gay marraige, gun rights, and other “cultural” type issues. I’ve often wondered if it would be possible for some guy like a Bloomberg or a Patraeus to emerge and say something like “I am running as a problem solver, and I’m running as an independent to not be beholden to either party. And when I’m elected president, I’ll bring Boehner and Pelosi and Reid and McConnell together in a room with me, lock the door, and not let anyone leave until we reach a practical solution on energy, healthcare, spending, etc.” When asked about the hot-button issues, I could imagine said candidate saying something like “I’m not going to tell you where I stand on abortion or gay rights, because it doesn’t involve the security of this nation or the stewardship of our economy, and those are what I am concerned with for the nect four years”. Could that happen? Yeah, right.

  11. bud

    Burl, thanks for the truth-o-meter link. Many of the kept promises were relatively minor. A few of the big ones were part of the political process and may have been necessary. Closing of Gitmo is probably one of those. But some of the big broken promises are disturbing. His inability to extract a bit more revenue from the super wealthy bothers me the most. Without that lost revenue we’d be in much better shape financially and all this talk of spending cuts would not be such a big deal.

  12. Phillip

    Brad, I’m delighted that you acknowledge as “respectable” the opinion that Iraq was the “wrong” war, and that that holding that view does not make one automatically “anti-war” in all circumstances, nor an isolationist.

    @Doug: I disagree that Obama is very different from what the majority of those voting for him expected. Maybe some naive hardcore progressives actually were hoodwinked by the extreme right’s “he a socialist!” rhetoric but I certainly never bought it, nor I think did most moderates and independents, whose support was decisive in his win. I fully expected to be disappointed (from a progressive viewpoint) and even flummoxed sometimes by his decisions, but felt all along that his basic worldview along with his sense of balance between the roles of the market and the state, plus a underlying pragmatism, were the best thing for this country at that point in time. I still think that. It’s fun to go back and read what we all thought on Brad’s old blog. My comment on Nov. 4, 2008:

    “Brad, even though I hope for specific policies that reverse many of the mistakes of the past eight years, no one policy I can think of is more important than the establishment of a new politics, a new possibility of bipartisan progress. I know you didn’t see it this way, but I felt Obama’s greatest potential was in this regard, the potential to unite. I felt he offered more of this possibility than McCain, and the fact he won moderates and independents overwhelmingly to me indicates this as well. I think that he will feel this to be his constituency as much or more than the liberal base, and will govern accordingly.”

  13. Scout

    Ok, I’m changing the subject a little bit, but Brad, I would think that if you are a pragmatist that you would be for the amazon sales tax exemption (I refuse to call it a tax break – people are still supposed to pay the tax.)

    I agree that it is abhorrent that Amazon is able to weasel out of collecting sales tax most places – but I would think the pragmatic position would be to allow this exemption on the grounds that making a stand against it accomplishes nothing until things outside of our control change. Taking a stand against it, as long as the nexus law stands, and as long as other states will make deals, will not accomplish 1) securing the jobs 2) collecting the tax (which we already are not receiving) or 3) equalizing the playing field (which already is uneven) for local retailers who have to collect the tax.

    I think we should allow the exemption (and get the jobs), increase efforts to educate consumers about paying the use tax on their SC income tax return (so we get the tax anyway), and pursue changes in federal law governing online retailers and sales tax collection (so that the playing field is leveled nationally and Amazon can’t skirt the issue by choosing where to locate).

    If I have misunderstood your position on this issue, I apologize – I’ve not had time to read in depth lately. I’m thinking you have said you agree with Haley’s position of not wanting to give the exemption.

  14. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    It’s not weaseling out of collecting sales tax. Thousands of small mail-order sellers could not handle all the paperwork required to collect tax and remit it to 50 states. That’s part of the reason why they are exempt.

    If we really want to get real about this and “make it fair,” we need to institute a consumption tax instead of a Swiss cheese sales tax, payable by the consumer. You take income, less whatever exemptions appropriate, less savings, and you tax a percentage of that. No exemptions for services, special interests and so on. The personal exemption part should be large enough so necessities like groceries aren’t taxed, unless perhaps only poorer people need it.That would really take the burden off business, encourage the savings we all need to do more of to offset the loss of traditional retirement and the Social Security shortfall, which savings could provide capital for the economy.

    Win all around, instead of just punishing the potential employees of Amazon.

  15. Steven Davis

    I was reading an article earlier today and for some reason I can’t find it now.

    Part of the problem with Amazon is that they hire and lay off in an almost cyclical fashion. They have mass hiring during peak times and mass layoffs during down times. So “full-time” might mean 40 hour weeks for 9 months out of 12 for them. Maybe The State should look closely into this and see if Amazon is going to commit to 12 month, full-time positions.

  16. Steven Davis

    And on this Amazon subject. If the seasonal layoffs are true, who pays for the laid-off employee’s unemployment insurance? If you say the SC taxpayers, you’d be correct.

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