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The imaginary president some prefer to campaign against

September 6, 2012 - Mike Maneval
A nonsensical piece of commentary by Michael Barone for the D.C. Examiner argues President Barack Obama's reelection is on weak ground because, in Barone's words, the president "has not pivoted" to the middle. After a case reliant on other voices in the conservative movement's echo chamber - a case that contradicts itself - it's a metaphor to which Barone returns, stating in his closing paragraph, "There has been no pivot."

It's an argument that has Barone claiming in the first two paragraph that Obama leaves open the answer to the question Barone attributes to the Economist's cover, "just what would you do with another four years?" And an argument in which Barone details by the seventh paragraph what he sees as specific policies four more years of an Obama administration would pursue, including "more infrastructure stimulus," shifting the tax burden from the middle class unto the wealthy, and stronger professional protections for schoolteachers - though only one of these have I left in Barone's spin. It's an argument for which Barone relies on a Wall Street Journal column by Republican campaign strategist Karl Rove and statistical nitpicking by conservative pollster Scott Rasmussen. For an opinion piece about the goals of a Democratic president that wades into the likely irrelevant history of how the Democratic party organized as a national entity in the past five or six decades, there is remarkably little consultation with either Democratic partisans or figures within the broader left.

Perhaps because such sources would lay the myth to which Barone is clinging to waste so quickly. What they could say is that Obama didn't have pivot toward the middle: He had been governing from there since January 2009.

The Obama administration has deported illegal immigrants at a faster rate than the administrations of either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. The U.S. continues to practice indefinite detention of foreign terror suspects and warrantless wiretapping. Obama signed a health care reform act that included the Heritage Foundation's consumer mandate and not the left's public option. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts. The president offered an education plan that took steps toward greater use of both merit pay and charter schools. Drilling for both oil and natural gas has reached greater volume under this administration than the previous two presidents - I've blogged statistics and figures demonstrating this before, but if you live in northcentral Pennsylvania, you don't need them. A drive around the countryside will prove the extraction of natural resources progresses on U.S. soil. The president signed to permit the concealed carrying of firearms in national parks to get better oversight of credit card lending when a Republican senator decided to connect the two.

In the past three years I've praised on this blog some of these centrist or conservative policies - including expanded drilling, tax relief for working Americans, and the deportation of illegal immigrants - and criticized at least one, the inclusion of a consumer mandate instead of a public option. And I can see a lot of flaws in the Obama administration, including the repeated failure to address the national debt and deficit and the appalling inattention to U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan. But Barone's criticisms don't conform to the reality of a president who frequently compromises, and is just more evidence itself of an opposition interested in desperately campaigning against a wholly imaginary president, perhaps while he's seated next to a Hollywood celebrity.


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