What the following article reluctantly yet quite accurately suggests--often even in spite of itself!--is that President Obama is essentially a shape-shifting political opportunist and careerist who consistently uses a solipsistic notion of "pragmatism" as a thinly veiled cover for avoiding a clear and concrete public commitment to any specific ideological or political position on any major issue. This schizophrenic and clearly obsessive tendency to try to rhetorically play up to and court both liberals and conservatives in both political parties while simultaneously asserting/pretending that he is personally "above the fray" of actual political and ideological combat is what has effectively ensured that Obama has become a largely inept, infuriating, and ironically polarizing figure. By both strategically and tactically avoiding or simply running away in fear or disdain from genuine political conflict (i.e. standing on principle for and/or against any given position at any given time), Obama has willfully and rather petulantly painted himself into a corner in which he comes off to many as what he most unfortunately really appears to be: a man either without the courage of his convictions or someone who lacks any true convictions at all--which is to say a passive-aggressive political hack cynically masquerading as a "transcendent" statesman.
In any event this dispiriting and anxiety inducing song-and-dance routine on his part is finally going to receive the fundamental challenge to his Presidency and his agenda that he truly deserves and that we must firmly DEMAND that he take complete and undeniable responsibility and accountability for. Finally between now and the presidential election of 2012 we will all find out conclusively who this President really is, whose side he is on, and what he truly stands for minus the insipid and cowardly BS platitudes about "bipartisanship consensus" and "mutual compromise" on the paramount and absolutely crucial issues of unemployment, poverty, Wall Street, the banks, financial and corporate institutions (i.e. Big Business), the debt crisis, domestic public policy, and global warfare, etc. The chickens have finally come home to roost for good in this administration and the President and the Democratic Party--as well as the general American left!--won't be able to simply sidestep or avoid this utterly transparent and compelling fact any longer. The traditional notion of "put up or shut up" or "lead, follow, or get out of the way" in our politics has never been clearer or more necessary than right now in this country and no one--not least the President of the United States-- will be able to escape either the truth or consequences of our collective responsibility...
Debt-Busting Issue May Force Obama Off Fence
By MATT BAI
November 30, 2010
New York Times
When President Obama’s fiscal commission offers its proposals on Wednesday, after the release by several liberal groups of their own debt-busting plans this week, the essential decision facing Mr. Obama in these last two years of his term will have been neatly framed. He can side either with centrist reformers in both parties, who would overhaul both cherished entitlements and the tax system, or with traditional liberals, who prefer new levies on the wealthy and substantial cuts in military spending.
In other words, the suddenly pressing issue of the debt will force Mr. Obama to choose, at last, between the dueling, ill-defined promises of his presidential campaign — between a “postpartisan” vision of government on one hand and a liberal renaissance on the other.
Partisans on either side in Washington, of course, would tell you that Mr. Obama has already made this decision — although they differ on which side he’s chosen.
Republicans depict the president as having governed just to the left of Hugo Chávez, nationalizing companies while centralizing power in the hands of the federal bureaucracy. Liberals complain that Mr. Obama has time and again abandoned his party’s principles in search of some centrist consensus that doesn’t exist, and they point to his creating a bipartisan fiscal commission as a case in point.
In truth, though, Mr. Obama has almost invariably sought to position himself halfway between traditionalism and reform, just as his vague notions of “hope” and “change” during the 2008 campaign were meant to appeal simultaneously to both disaffected independent voters and core progressives. And in virtually every case, he has satisfied pretty much no one.
Take the example of Mr. Obama’s first initiative, the roughly $800 billion stimulus bill, which independent and conservative voters revile as a huge government handout, while liberals deride it as too small and too timid. Or look at the health care law, which struck independents as liberal overreach and yet bitterly disappointed the left because it didn’t include a government-run plan. Just where Mr. Obama actually lives on the ideological continuum — that is, exactly what kind of Democrat he sees when he looks in the mirror to examine his busted lip — is the most vexing question of his presidency.
The body of Mr. Obama’s writing and experiences before he became a presidential candidate would suggest that he is instinctively pragmatic, typical of an emerging generation that sees all political dogma — be it ’60s liberalism or ’80s conservatism — as anachronistic. Privately, Mr. Obama has described himself, at times, as essentially a Blue Dog Democrat, referring to the shrinking caucus of fiscally conservative members of the party.
In a 2005 blog post that may be as valuable as either of his books in identifying the inner president, then-Senator Obama castigated his own party’s ideological activists for their attacks on Democratic senators who had voted to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice. “To the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, ‘true’ progressive vision for our country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward,” Mr. Obama, who voted against confirming Chief Justice Roberts, wrote then.
At the same time, Mr. Obama has been loath to publicly disown his base on any specific issue, even where he disagreed and where his political prospects might have benefited. And this probably says more about his personal philosophy than it does about his ideology.
You have to remember that Mr. Obama first entered politics in Illinois in the mid-1990s, when “triangulation,” as practiced by Bill Clinton, was becoming a vile curse word in liberal circles. Mr. Clinton had repeatedly solidified his own standing by putting a good bit of distance between himself and his own supporters on the left — a tactic liberals found both dispiriting and distasteful.
Part of the contrast Mr. Obama sought to draw with Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 campaign was that you would never catch him triangulating against his friends for political gain. It was a point of pride for Mr. Obama that he would have no so-called Sister Souljah moments, even when he vehemently disagreed with liberals.
The problem with this stance, two years into his presidency, is that it seems to have put Mr. Obama in something of a box. Since he isn’t willing to break publicly with liberals, independent and conservative voters tend to see him as a tool of the left. And since he generally won’t do exactly what the left wants him to do, he ends up with very little gratitude from his own party.
This political no-man’s land, however, is about to become uninhabitable. The national debt is near the top of any list of voter concerns at the moment, and when his commission votes Friday on its final recommendations, Mr. Obama will be handed concrete and contrasting options for addressing it.
Budget experts from both parties agree, for instance, with the commission’s co-chairmen, Erskine B. Bowles and Alan K. Simpson, that some reduction in Social Security benefits will be essential to the nation’s long-term fiscal stability. But liberal groups are adamant about preventing any change to the structure of the program, which they see as the last unassailable pillar of New Deal liberalism.
Should Mr. Obama embrace the commissioners’ argument on Social Security, the sense of betrayal on the left will be so intense that he could conceivably draw a primary challenge over it in 2012.
Another critical question is whether Mr. Obama will embrace some overhaul of the tax code that leads not just to broader payroll taxes but also to reductions in income tax rates in return for eliminating many tax breaks, as the commission’s chairmen suggested in their initial draft. Liberals propose raising taxes on wealthier Americans and businesses instead.
Mr. Obama’s opening move this week in the fast-forming budget debate was to propose a freeze in salaries for federal employees — a classic, Obama-like gambit that mildly annoyed the left and will do little to assuage public fears about spending. More consequential decisions are coming, however, and they will tell us much about the kind of president Mr. Obama still intends to be.