Saturday, November 22, 2008

Warning to Progressives: NYT Proclaims Obama Will Govern From Center-Right

Progressives are experiencing a collective meltdown as Hillary Clinton prepares to become Secretary of State in the Obama administration. During the primaries, the Left contended that Clinton was hawkish and that she would only offer more of the same militaristic and dangerous practices of the Bush administration. Obama, by contrast, was portrayed almost exclusively as a dove -- even when he equivocated on Iraq, Iran and other sensitive areas of national security.

Progressives are also ablaze over the rumored selection of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of Treasury. Geithner has worked with Paulson to bail-out AIG and Bear Stearns. Initially, the leftwing of the party feared that Obama would choose Larry Summers for the post. Progressives criticize Summers because he supported deregulation of financial markets, which many liberals believe caused the current economic crisis. Summers also sparked controversy during his tenure as president of Harvard University when he said that women are not genetically wired to excel in the hard sciences.

Instead of selecting Summers, Obama's transition team seems to have settled upon his protoge. Most political analysis to date characterizes Geithner as being moderate or center-right. Accordingly, his selection gives progressives another reason to complain.

Today's New York Times explains that Obama's cabinet decisions suggest that he will govern from the center-right, despite the enthusiasm he has generated among leftists. Here's a snippet:

[Obama's] reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.

The choices are as revealing of the new president as they are of his appointees — and suggest that, from its first days, an Obama White House will brim with big personalities and far more spirited debate than occurred among the largely like-minded advisers who populated President Bush’s first term.

My take: Bill Clinton's "pragmatism" made him the enemy of the left, and Hillary Clinton suffered from this too. But liberals can only survive in a national office if they are pragmatic (particularly because the country remains center-right, despite the exuberance of the left). Pragmatism, however, is not a theme in the narrative the left uses to describe Obama. By contrast, they have argued that Obama will restore the country's image domestically and internationally, bring about peace, provide jobs for the middle-class, end discrimination, bigotry and social divisions, banish partisanship, slay the GOP, and usher in a new New Deal. I imagine some of them will begin altering that narrative in the near future.

PS: I like the argument that the author provides for the Obama team. Although Obama's cabinet choices might upset people on the Left, their anger is misplaced. Having conservatives and moderates serve in Obama's cabinet allows for "spirited debate," which did not occur during the nasty, evil Bush administration. So liberals -- be quiet!

Also the author suggests a false dichotomy between pragmatism and leftist ideology; Obama is going for the center-right by picking pragmatists (not leftists). As a pragmatic leftist, I take offense at the dichotomy, but I'm just a mere blogger, not a learned New York Times journalist. Smell the fresh scent of sarcasm. Ain't it great?


1950 Democrat said...

Sigh. Misrepresentation of Summers escalates. Now he definitely said he invented the internet, while wearing a bath towel.

Here is what he really said:

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

First of all, I do not care whether Summers gets the job or not, so I have no incentive to "misrepresent" his comments. Second, I read through the transcript (before you even posted it), and Summers indeed attempts to link the gender composition in the sciences to biology. I was not quoting him -- but that's an accurate representation of his speech.

Here's a relevant quote:

There may also be elements, by the way, of differing, there is some, particularly in some attributes, that bear on engineering, there is reasonably strong evidence of taste differences between little girls and little boys that are not easy to attribute to socialization.... So, I think, while I would prefer to believe otherwise, I guess my experience with my two and a half year old twin daughters who were not given dolls and who were given trucks, and found themselves saying to each other, look, daddy truck is carrying the baby truck, tells me something. And I think it's just something that you probably have to recognize. There are two other hypotheses that are all over. One is socialization. Somehow little girls are all socialized towards nursing and little boys are socialized towards building bridges. No doubt there is some truth in that. I would be hesitant about assigning too much weight to that hypothesis for two reasons.... [T]he human mind has a tendency to grab to the socialization hypothesis when you can see it, and it often turns out not to be true.....

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