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On Center By: Jamie Weinstein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Were conservatives wrong about Barack Obama?

I know, I know. It is way too early to begin to assess Obama's administration and its policies. After all, the man does not really even have an administration yet and won't for over a month.

Still, many conservatives are scratching their heads. Is Obama more moderate than we thought?

Despite his liberal voting record, there were hints that Obama might not be as liberal as many conservatives feared.

For instance, in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in May 2007, Obama conceded that his daughters should probably not benefit from affirmative action policies when they apply for college and seemed to indicate that he was open to some sort of socioeconomic affirmative action program. During his much vaunted March 2008 speech on race, Obama inserted an attack on welfare for contributing to the "erosion of black families." Even in his much ballyhooed speech opposing the Iraq War in 2002, Obama made sure his anti-war crowd knew that he was no pacifist. "I don't oppose all wars" he said again and again and again in the speech.

Yet despite these few hints of moderation, the totality of Obama's limited record led one to conclude that he was a man of the left. Sure, he was deliberative. But he always seemed to deliberate and then choose the liberal option. With his picks for important Cabinet positions, however, conservatives are forced to revise their view of the president-elect.

Considering what we thought we were getting, it is comforting that Obama has so far picked a Cabinet that is center-left as opposed to MoveOn.org-left. His picks are not from the fringes of the Democratic Party by any means. Obama is keeping Bob Gates at Defense, and former four-star Marine General Jim Jones, a man with no party affiliation who is widely respected by both sides of the aisles, will be Obama's National Security Advisor. Hillary Clinton at State could turn out to be problematic for Obama, but she is certainly a better (and perhaps less liberal) choice than John Kerry, who many thought would be rewarded with that post for his endorsement of Obama at a crucial time during the Democratic primary campaign.

Similarly, Obama's economic team is encouraging compared to what we could have gotten. The incoming Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner does not appear to be an acolyte of Karl Marx, and Larry Summers, who will head Obama's National Economic Council, is considered a moderate.
We can already see the influence of some of these more moderate economic advisors. Obama has backtracked on raising taxes on "the rich" immediately upon entering the White House. It seems now that he will just let Bush's tax cuts expire in 2011. As for the windfall profits tax on oil companies he promised, well, that too looks like it is on the backburner. Hopefully, he will now backtrack on some of his campaign rhetoric on free trade, most especially his indefensible position in opposition of the Colombia Free Trade agreement.

You know things are going as well as they could be considering the circumstances when it is the MoveOn.orgers who are screaming bloody murder. The ultra-liberal base of the Democratic Party got behind Obama early and helped propel him to victory. As of now, he appears to be leaving them out of his administration – at least out of the most important posts in his cabinet.

Some argue that Obama is actually playing a shrewd game. He is appointing center/left cabinet secretaries to put a moderate face on his liberal policies. He is, after all, the boss and the job of his cabinet is to implement his vision. To the dismay of the Code Pinkers out there, this is a naïve notion. Obama will be depending on many of these appointments for advice, and it is wishful thinking to believe that he is appointing these high profile figures so he can force them to implement a vision they don't believe in.

None of this is to say that Obama will be a conservative champion. He won't be and no one should expect him to be. But if he turns out to be more New Republic than The Nation, well, the country will be better for it, even if it diminishes conservative chances to take the White House in 2012.

Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.


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