Another Gerson Quote

Honestly, I don’t claim the be a raving fan, but today, Michael Gerson made another thoughtful reference, this time about Obama’s tactics: [  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ignoring-foreign-policy-wont-make-it-go-away/2012/08/09/6f522cc6-e19a-11e1-a25e-15067bb31849_story.html ]

"He followed the same approach in foreign policy he often did elsewhere, which was to detach himself from two opposing camps or schools of thought, sympathize with each and insist the differences between them were less than believed,” James Mann writes in his book “The Obamians.”

Actually, James Mann has the insight here. Here, both commentators are referring to how Obama handles foreign policy. This is on target not only for foreign policy, but Obama does this in other situations. He did it for several budgets with Congress. He did it in formulating the Affordable Health Care Act. He certainly did it while the Republican Clown parade primary ensued. I call it Triangulating. He watches the two sides battle each other, then finds common ground he can accept, and makes policy. This is largely brilliant, because it offers absolution from blame, should he need it later, all the while giving him credit for finding a solution.

This behavior is attacked by the farther left as spineless. (JP?) This is why so many liberals are disappointed in him. Granted, it could fairly be characterized as leading from second in line. But Obama did it while campaigning last election. He’s doing it again now. What the country seemed to want last time was anything different than W. Change from all of those ways he ruined the country. Even conservatives and most who became right wing fanatics agree, W = bad. So Obama let the far right and far left dream, and he verbalized the dreams and hopes and changes he could get behind. The troops rallied, he was elected. Now he’s letting the Tea Party and the moderate republicans fuss over Romney. He campaigns in the way one would expect – enough substance to be credible, and enough vagueness to become correct.

I doubt this will change; I think it’s in his nature. I say he’s not void of true leadership. It’s not always best to be the first to buy the latest I-pad or Lexus (or fighter jet, or welfare reform, or wind power generator). However, if that hardware makes you truly more effective, then go for it. I can be happy with this approach to leadership. I sure beats gutting the government, free rides on taxes for the 1%, and no health care for 40 million people.

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About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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2 Responses to Another Gerson Quote

  1. JP says:

    I think we need to separate foreign policy from governing or running for office here. Perhaps his triangulation–as you’ve called it before–did work for him in the health care debate, I’d say it didn’t necessarily work for the country, which was behind at least a public option. And I’d even say that he didn’t even triangulate there–that would have been to stand back and let those who were for a public option or single payer battle it out with those who like the current system and then step in to support that which showed the most public support or possibility of passing. Instead, he took it off the table before the negotiating even began. That is why some on the left–while acknowledging the ACA is a small step in the right direction–see Obama as having caved rather than pushed harder for a better health care plan. He ostensibly did it because he so desperately wanted a Republican vote–a single Republican vote, mind you–so he could call it bipartisan (which of course would have been a farce; a single vote from the other party hardly makes a bill really bipartisan), and then in the end didn’t get a single Republican vote anyway.
    I agree that he is usually a very skilled politician. I think where we differ is that you seem to think that using those skillful politics to earn what he can call a victory for himself is a good thing in and of itself, and I want to still look and see whether or not it is good for the country. Sometimes what is good for Obama is what is good for the country, and they aren’t necessarily the same. They may be the best possible outcome given political realities. You seem okay leaving it at that. I accept that and also think we have to keep pointing out what would truly be good for the county, even if it is not at the moment politically viable or feasible–otherwise we’ll never push the conversation in that direction and make that better change possible.

    • Jim says:

      JP – You inflate the idea that the country was truly behind a public option. That is no more reality than the country was truly behind privatizing Medicare. Only factions on the wings were after those things, even if your faction was bigger than the right’s. I can’t begin to imagine the reaction of the right if something more “public” were passed, assuming the Dems could have passed it.

      Obama is a pragmatist at heart. He does what he can, and he makes deals. The ACA was a result of many minds working together, and there are a lot of great ideas in it. Charging forth with any idea fits your ideologue mode, but mine and Barack’s allow for research, development and slow but steady progress.

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