Saturday, November 22, 2008


David Sirota points out that there's been a huge spike in the use of the term "center-right nation" since the election, based on appearances in news stories tracked by Google:

(Click to enlarge.)

Now, you and I (and David) think that this is decidedly not a center-right nation at this time. But what if the many journalists and pundits who've used this term are right -- by their definition of "center-right"?

The New York Times ran a story today titled "Obama Tilts to Center, Inviting a Clash of Ideas." And apparently that headline was a distortion of what the story's author, David Sanger, really thinks -- Sanger wrote of Obama:

Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury -- suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.

So Obama is "center-right" -- if you believe "center-right" means "pragmatic" and "moderate-to-liberal while attempting to find some common ground with conservatives."

Here's Geithner, according to Robert Kuttner:

Perhaps most importantly, Kuttner noted a speech Geithner delivered to the Economic Club of New York last June, calling for a far-tougher regulatory policy to alter "the level and concentration of risk-taking across the financial system." He got quite specific, saying regulators "need to make it much more difficult for institutions with little capital and little supervision to underwrite mortgages." Reassuringly, Kuttner described the remarks as "a blueprint for fundamental overhaul," which is what's necessary given the need for a new financial architecture.

And yes, Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War, and has saber-rattled toward Iran But a little perspective: She ran for president as an opponent of the war. She believes in at least some engagement with rogue regimes. And she did ultimately renounce torture. If all that is "center-right," I can live with it.

And meanwhile, Obama is rumored to want a torture opponent as national security adviser, and has chosen an opponent of Bush-era excesses for attorney general. Obama is reportedly considered a sort of truth commission on Bush-era torture (though, admittedly, without the intent to prosecute anyone) and at least some degree of public-works pump-priming.

How does all this add up to "center-right"?

Well, if, when you define "left" or even "liberal," you imagine a headbanded hippie calling for unilateral disarmament and communism, then, yeah, Obama's going center-right. But he's not going to the center-right of American politics as we know it.

So he may not be a big ol' lefty. But he's not a righty, even of the center- variety. Please, give him a bit of credit.

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