Thursday, August 23, 2012

It'd Be Nice For Everyone to Take a Chill Pill . . . But Don't Hold Your Breath

While I have plenty of criticisms of Barack Obama's presidency, it seems odd that so many of my fellow critics consider him to be ridiculously left-wing.  Consider the following record, and ask yourself whether it makes sense for the left to be so defensive of the guy and the right to be so scathing:

1) Withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in line with the Bush Administration's timetable, and in fact requested the Iraqi government for an extension; also increased U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and participated in military action against Libya.  Also helped increase international pressure (via sanctions) on Iran.

2) Significantly increased the use of aerial drone attacks on terror suspects in various foreign countries, with ultimate decisionmaking authority for the strikes resting in the CinC, and continued to detain terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay without trial.

3) Signed a health care plan that was the most "market-friendly" of the options in Congress, modeled after the Massachusetts plan signed by Republican Governor Romney and containing features (such as the individual mandate) that were supported by conservative think tanks as well as major health insurance companies.

4) Signed a number of tax cuts into law, including a payroll tax cut and an extension of the Bush tax cuts.

5) Reduced expenditures for federal government workforce.

On paper, a record like that would be what I would have expected of a right-leaning president--despite some "liberal" moves such as pro-labor union moves such as the auto bailout and ending Clinton's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy for homosexuals in the military.  Campaign rhetoric and promises aside, presidents generally have records that run against the grain of partisan predictability.  It might be the "Only Nixon could go to China" theory, or it could just be that presidents operate within certain constraints. 

So we have a president who has governed--well or poorly, depending on your outlook--relatively in the center, and running against a former Massachusetts governor who governed as a moderate Republican.  From a strictly ideological standpoint, there really shouldn't be much passion excited in favor of or against either Obama or Romney.  (Forget for a minute how "extreme" their relative campaign promises are--anyone who thinks for a minute that an Obama re-election will be a liberal's dream or that a Romney win will mean a Tea Party agenda getting enacted should really buy this bridge I'm selling)  Maybe it'd be nice to sit back and look at the two candidates rationally, in terms of their relative competence and temperament, which will have a lot more to do with how the next four years will go than their "conservatism" or "liberalism".

Just don't expect the partisan hate machines to tell you otherwise.  For them, this might as well be McKinley vs. Bryan.

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