Friday, December 10, 2010

Center Right, Not Wrong

While she thinks President Obama's in a pretty good position to be renominated in 2012 by virtue of the Democrats having no one substantial enough to challenge him, Reagan-Bush speechwriter Peggy Noonan also thinks he has a long way to go before he's standing astride the great American center as Bill Clinton was:

The president must have thought that distancing himself from left and right would make him more attractive to the center. But you get credit for going to the center only if you say the centrist position you've just embraced is right. If you suggest, as the president did, that the seemingly moderate plan you agreed to is awful and you'll try to rescind it in two years, you won't leave the center thinking, "He's our guy!" You'll leave them thinking, "Note to self: Remove Obama in two years."


MK said...

That's a curious thing for her to say (she being Peggy Noonan). She once worked in a White House. She knows no president has been able to steamroll his way through Washington, although some have been better positioned to get their policies enacted than others.

There are several ways to look at centrists. One is that they are moderates, that they lean a little right on some issues and a little left on others. If the president compromises on an issue in which they happen to lean the other way, they indeed may be disappointed.

Another type of centrist is one who understands we live in an imperfect world, figures you have to make do and navigate that world as best you can, and just wants the two parties to work together. That involves compromise.

Compromise often means giving up some things you'd rather have and getting a less than a good deal because otherwise you might end up with nothing or gridlock. I'm not so sure people who have that "just make do" view of their own centrism will react the way Nooan does. (Noonan's not a centrist so she may have trouble reading the nuances.) They might say, "well, he's honest enough to admit he doesn't think this or that is outcome great but heck, I have to do that at work or at home sometimes, too. Better that than trying to sugarcoat it and cheerlead, when everyone can see it was a compromise."

Fr. John said...

Well said. I had a feeling she was reacting mainly to his seeming grumpiness. From way out here, I still perceive a lack of joy in the president, a shortage of zeal for the job. Hard for you to comment about that, I know.