Triangulation in the Obama Era

Thinking about the Politics of Your Bama, Read this Hill Staffer letter.

Obama preempts the other side’s most resonant arguments, which forces them to come up with more and more extreme claims in order to differentiate themselves. In the end, he occupies the reasonable middle ground and his opponents are Palinized. It doesn’t always work — on the national security/gitmo/Miranda stuff, for example, it turns out the utter extreme positions the right is left with given the centrist ground Obama has staked out turns out to be fairly popular. But even there, the Administration has had reasonable success pushing back on the Miranda nonsense and, because they effectively occupy the tough, pragmatic middle ground, they routinely get cover from non-crazy Republican national security voices, which has helped blunt the force of these issues. (I understand that the term “middle ground” is very slippery and dangerous here, but I basically use it to mean policies that, before the great crazy of 2009 had broad consensus support from large portions of both parties and the Broder/Friedman/Brooks axis.)

At the same time, the policy is a tailored, measured version of what the Republicans have urged — so, yes, the headline is, ‘Obama Allows New Offshore Drilling/Presses For Energy Independence,’ but at the same time, California/Oregon/Washington where opposition is strongest isn’t included, and there are environmentally-friendly changes to Alaska leasing policy announced at the same time. And again, as we’ve seen before, Republicans are sort of forced to twist and parse, and even to oppose things they have long supported, just because the Administration hasn’t gone far enough.

Or, in another words: Triangulation, once again.

Understand, I do believe this rating scheme to have been a useful exercise, an item which forces a confrontation on the historical expectations of the President.  At the moment, I’ll go ahead and say — move Zachory Taylor to the third level, move Ulysses Grant to the second level (this article ‘s arguments have momentarily fazed me), move William McKinley to the fourth level, and move Rutherford Hayes to the third level.  Not that I’m losing sleep with this — come back to me in a week and I’ll restore them all back and, I don’t know — move Martin Van Buren?

Now drop Obama into this game, and …  The effect is always strange.  Maybe I can drop Taylor out with the same force that I don’t mention Garfield or W. H. Harrison and make a spectacular announcement? 

So I had that giant “Er… No” once when Obama gave this Health Care speech where he evoked the Presidents Roosevelt (as in Ted) on down with respect to Health Care — “I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.”  He corralled the last few liberal dissenters in the House by promising that he would not be the last President to take up Health Care.  This surrounds that area of David Frum — . The DNA of this bill traces back to what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts, and it traces back before that to the Republican alternative to Clinton Care back in 1993 and 1994.  — While insisting he would not have voted for it due to what the Heck is wrong with it.  This is to say that in 1993-1994, the Republicans as a whole and as a group had the political need to come up with public proposals, as opposed to 2009-2010, when they would go with a straight face with the “America.  Best Health Care in the World.  America.”

Off-shore drilling is not all that puzzling.  It may be a flip flop, but it’s a flip flop already made.  He campaigned for this in the 2008 presidential general election.  Is this a compromise with himself before — what?  Securing Lindsey Graham in Climate Change bill?

After a while, these matters poke into a bit of a feeling of being “punked”.  See this recent blog conversation between The Prospect’s Tim Fernholz and The Atlantic’s Mark Ambinder and back.  While Mark Ambinder side-steps the standard aniums against Mark Halperin, the breezy comment, the part Fernholz high-lighted.:

it’s high-reward, low-risk; environmentalists will complain, but then again, environmentalists complain.  Aside from the substance, which is beyond our ken, the politics of this move is easy:

Everyone is always complaining.  But I know we’ll be somewhere when we can see the comment “Talk Radio hosts / Tea Party Protesters will complain, but then again, Talk Radio hosts / Tea Party Protesters always complain.”  Even better if we insert Financial Lobbyists, etc. as the subject.

I suppose the revised theory of Triangulation works that the shouts of “Marxist” will exhaust itself out, even as it hits up against the general Theory and Laws of Mid Term elections.

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