Obama isn't elusive

I'm disinclined to blog much about politics.  But this column by the former blogger turned conservative NY Times columnist Ross Douthat kind of struck a chord in me.
Every presidency is the subject of competing caricatures. But almost a year into his first term, there’s something particularly elusive about Barack Obama’s political identity. He’s a bipartisan bridge-builder — unless he’s a polarizing ideologue. He’s a crypto-Marxist radical — except when he’s a pawn of corporate interests. He’s a post-American utopian — or else he’s a willing tool of the national security state...
If one were to read traditional media and never listen to what Barack Obama has actually said or written, then Barack Obama would seem elusive.  But if one actually listened to what he has said--and by any standard President Obama is particularly articulate are particularly non-evasive--then there is absolutely nothing at all elusive about him.  He has done pretty much exactly what he said he would do.  Douthat continues:
...In hindsight, the most prescient sentence penned during the presidential campaign belongs to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. “Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama,” he wrote in July 2008, “is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them.”
Okay.  But I don't think Lizza's prescient moment required deep analytical or perceptive insight.  All of this has always been as plain as day from day one, if one were to listen to the man himself or any of his closest advisors.  The only way not to see what Obama is--a  smart, pragmatic, and charismatic individual with an open mind and unusually varied background that allows him to see many sides--is to ignore the causes, ideology and political constraints of those drawing the caricatures.

To serve his cause--which I think is centered, broadly speaking, on a hope of a better human condition--Obama is willing to set ego aside and compromise to any extent necessary.  I, for one, was always inspired by Obama, not by his oratorical eloquence or race (okay, maybe a little), but by the fact that he eschews ideology.  He recognizes the world is complex and that special interests have many powers.  He will stand up to those powers to the extent that he is able.  But he's no fool.  Given the significant political constraints it seems to me he trys as best as he can to further general well-being.

As an economist who views policy from a technocratic perspective, it seems to me Obama is the best we can ask for in a leader.  The skills he combines with his noble objectives, intelligence and wise strategy of implementation, simply adds powerful ammunition to his worthwhile cause.

The painted facade of Obama's elusiveness comes from the ideologues who bristle that this egregious moderate might actually get something done, and in doing so shatter their fragile worldview.  Or otherwise diminish the cause of their particular special interest.

That Obama is truly elusive to anyone is a testament only to the poor and declining quality of our media (we can't really blame journalists for this, but that's another story...).  Don't buy sweeping generalized attacks of Obama or his presidency or silly conspiracy theories.  The only way to judge this man's presidency is by the specific policies he proposes and signs into law, and then only in comparison to what other policies you think might be politically feasible.

Yeah, it's a pain in the a#$$ to follow all the details, but that's real life.  Ignore everything else, no matter how salaciously interesting it may seem.  And it's especially important to ignore polls about whether people approve or disapprove of proposed policies when it's clear they don't understand the policy being proposed.

Update: Maybe I'm being too vague here.  The point is that Obama has bent over backwards to be the post-partisan centrist he claimed he would be.   But it just doesn't get reported that way.  Here's a clearer take with regard to health care.


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