Our political Quote of the Day comes from The National Journal’s Charlie Cook, who concludes that President Barack Obama has built a highly impressive White House operation — skillful in its dealings with Congress and largely centrist in character:
Whether one agrees with the Obama White House ideologically or substantively, one would be hard-pressed to cite an administration better connected with the personalities and dynamics of Capitol Hill. As we wake up to find the most significant change to health care policy since Medicare and the most important energy bill ever moving through Congress, this exhaustive list of experienced staff members with close relationships with the most important and centrally located Democrats on Capitol Hill explains how it is happening. A common thread through conversations with staffers is that they are so mindful of mistakes made by past administrations, particularly the Clinton administration, that they are determined not to repeat them.
The fact that Obama ran as an outsider and effectively had only two years of Senate experience before diving into the presidential campaign is ironic given the team he has created, whether on the White House staff as Bai detailed, or in the Cabinet. Even more ironic is that despite his National Journal rating as the most liberal member of the Senate in 2007, Obama’s Cabinet is not one that the Democratic Left would have assembled. I doubt if MoveOn.org, CodePink, or others on the Democratic Left recommended former Marine Commandant James Jones for national security adviser or that Robert Gates be kept on as Defense secretary. It’s also hard to imagine the Left recommending Dennis Blair, former commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet, as director of national intelligence. These are not the choices expected of a doctrinaire liberal or an outsider.
And on the economic side? Is team Obama a cabal of Marxist-Socialist-radicals as some GOP conservatives suggest, out to undermine America As We Know It?
On the economic side, if one defines the Democratic Party’s economic spectrum as starting with former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and the AFL-CIO on the left, and former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin on the right (or more accurately, the center), the vast majority of the key economic picks looks like a reunion of Rubin proteges and fans, whether it is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers, or Jason Furman, his deputy. To be sure, there are others to their left, notably Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman Christina Romer and council member Austan Goolsbee, a former University of Chicago faculty member with Obama. But clearly the most economically centrist wing of the Democratic Party is better represented in this administration than Obama’s brief Senate voting record would suggest.
Indeed, Obama’s biggest criticisms now come from some on the Democratic left, who view Obama as mushy (a favorite adjective people on the left and right like to use to try and negatively characterize centrists or moderates who don’t agree with a left or right stand on a policy — someone MUST be mushy or unprincipled if they conclude that a hard left or hard right stand is not appropriate) and increasingly with near hysteria by some on the right.
For instance, listening to Rush Limbaugh yesterday arguing that the man who opened fire at the Holocaust Museum was REALLY a leftist (when other evidence clearly does not support that view) and that Obama is the one who has stirred up hatred was funnier than any headlining comedian or top rated sitcom.
Limbaugh accusing Obama of stirring up hatred is like the oversized pot calling the teacup an oversized pot.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.