Sunday, December 19, 2010

Where is Clive Crook's "center"?

Clive Crook does not understand U.S. politics. He thinks there's a contradiction between rhetorically beating up on the opposition and cutting deals with them. Here's his response to Obama's Dec. 7 press conference devoted to the tax cut deal:
Could somebody in the White House please tell Mr Obama he cannot have it both ways? Either a) Republicans are evil, dealing with them is repugnant and you do it only with a gun to your head; or b) they are fellow Americans, with legitimate views (backed for the moment by most of the electorate) and working with them (however hard they make it) is a presidential obligation. Either of these positions is coherent. Trying to maintain both is a formula for mental illness.
Crook wants Obama to acknowledge that the other side has some good ideas even though he himself acknowledges that they have none: 
Republicans are indeed an unreasonable, intransigent and reckless bunch, far better at blocking policies than coming up with their own. 

He doesn't seem to have noticed that Obama just spent two years treating the Republicans as worthy political partners -- and got nothing in return but intransigence and vilification.

To identify tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% as Republicans' "holy grail" while explaining that he traded off that obsession to win essential stimulus and relief for the middle class is smart politics in the zero-sum political environment that Obama has tried and failed to change. To paint Republicans as the dangerous extremists they are is the only way to make them deal. That is the Clinton playbook, which Obama has said he is studying.

It is Crook's understanding of Obama's governance that's been schizophrenic, not Obama's rhetoric. Crook has insisted that Obama has governed from the far left because he persevered in putting through his oh-so-moderate health care reform -- which  Crook supported on the merits -- despite Republicans' considerable success in demonizing it. He wants Obama to govern from the center while acknowledging that there are no Republicans in the center, and that governing from the center has meant shepherding conservative Democrats to get over the Republican stonewall.

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