And no, this isn’t just because the Republicans who would oppose him seem engaged in a contest to see who can be the biggest whack job. It’s more about Obama himself.
Earlier, I indicated that Obama was, after a weak outing in 2008, looking more and more like the Energy Party candidate for 2012.
Well, now… and I’m even more happy about this… he’s looking more and more like he wants the nod of the UnParty.
I saw this most clearly reading a piece in the NYT’s Week In Review from Sunday, “Obama, Searching for a Vision.”
Well, first off, I don’t think Obama’s searching for a vision. I think he’s got one, and it looks clearer, and better, every day. Perhaps he is, as the piece suggests, “being pressed as never before to define what American liberalism means for the 21st century.” At least, pressed by some.
But what I think he’s doing is something much higher and better — defining pragmatism for the 21st century. This is what I’ve always liked about him, but as he comes to embody it more fully, as the right hates him more passionately and the left whines louder about how disappointing he is, I see him more favorably than ever.
Perhaps this can be explained most simply by the fact that he keeps doing stuff I agree with. Take this passage from the piece:
Mr. Obama has always cast himself as a pragmatist and he seems to be feeling his way in the post-midterm election environment. In some areas, he has retreated. The decision announced last week to try the accused Sept. 11 plotters in a military commission at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, represented a 180-degree reversal under pressure from congressional Republicans and some Democrats. His embrace of a free-trade pact with Colombia continued a new emphasis on trade for a Democrat who once vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta.
The war in Libya represents one of the most complicated issues for Mr. Obama as he sets out his own form of modern liberalism. The hero of the anti-war movement in 2008 effectively is adopting Mr. Clinton’s humanitarian interventions in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s as a model, while trying to distinguish his actions from Mr. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Most of that I knew about, and have applauded. But somehow I missed that he had shaken off the completely irrational, amoral opposition of Big Labor to the Colombia Free Trade pact. Way to go, Mr. President!
Most political commentators, trapped in the extremely limiting notion that the politicians they write and speak about must either be of the left or right, can’t make him out. But he keeps making perfect sense to me. Perhaps I should send a memo out to the MSM letting them know that there’s a third way they can think of a politician (actual, there’s an infinite number of ways, but let’s not blow their little minds; one step at a time). There’s left (as “left” is popularly and imperfectly described) and right (as “right” is popularly and imperfectly described), and then there’s Brad Warthen. As in, “The candidate’s recent statements have been Warthenesque,” or “That was a distinctly Braddish move he made last week.”
It would open up whole new vistas for our national political conversation. Certainly a broader landscape than what we’re used to, with its limited expectations.
I LIKE a guy who at least tries to give us health care reform. I thought he didn’t go nearly far enough on that, but now that I see Republicans’ internal organs have turned inside-out in apoplexy at what little he’s done, I suppose he lowered his sights out of compassion for what REAL reform would have done to them.
I like a guy who realizes that closing Guantánamo (as both he AND McCain wanted to do, and generally for sound reasons) and trying all those guys in civil courts was impractical, and moves on.
And folks, please — he was never the “anti-war” candidate. Come on. He considered Iraq to be the “wrong war” — a respectable position to take — and that the “right war” was Afghanistan. Yeah, I have a beef with his timeline stuff, but at least he’s left a hole in that wide enough to drive a Humvee through. He’s been pragmatic about it. And yeah, maybe he got out-toughed by the French, but that’s a GOOD thing. Let France feel like the knight in shining armor for once. Maybe it will be less surly in the future.
But seriously, the guy just looks better all the time — from an UnParty perspective.