Thursday, December 13, 2012

Obama = Clinton?

I wonder if progressives aren't too harsh on Obama all the time...I suspect his record will play out not too differently from Clinton's.

What we saw in the 90s was a president who played both sides of the political spectrum, while still being decidedly a leaning progressive. This didn't, however, blind him to the ideas of the right, where the push against "big government" is important. The sad fact is that sometimes a smart government is a pipe dream and  that when in doubt about whether or not government can have useful and well-defined role in a particular field, we should leave those things to the private sector and local communities.

Clinton, I think, recognized the need to see both sides of the debate and not just pander to one or the other. Obama appears to have continued that trend, which justifiably upsets strong progressives, but it also should give the GOP less ammunition to use against him in the political arena. As we've seen over the past four years, however, Obama failed most clearly in making it obvious that he was being the reasonable one, while congressional Republicans stone-walled at every available opportunity. Those many moments were opportunities to point out that the Congress was not working for the good of Americans as a whole, but instead chose to mire itself in political kabuki.

Obama's second term looks slightly more promising: he hasn't budged on the budget (which is sound and reasonable, except for any ideas about raising the retirement age: a regressive robbery of Medicare and Social Security's promise) and he appears to have correctly recognized that this is an issue he has a lot of "capital" to use, since America just voted for his vision again, even after the disappointments of the past four years. Hopefully he uses the next four to seal his legacy as a president who was fair-minded to all sides of the debate but principled and a visionary. The later quality is what he was elected on in 2008 and we, as Americans, need that guiding light more than anything else.

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