Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gail Collins: One pundit who gets Obama

I love Gail Collins. She's very sensible and calm, and has the most wonderfully dry sense of humor. And she's not angry, which is great. Her column on Obama and his alleged recent policy shifts is just wonderful:

Think back. Why, exactly, did you prefer Obama over Hillary Clinton in the first place? Their policies were almost identical — except his health care proposal was more conservative. You liked Barack because you thought he could get us past the old brain-dead politics, right? He talked — and talked and talked — about how there were going to be no more red states and blue states, how he was going to bring Americans together, including Republicans and Democrats.

Exactly where did everybody think this gathering was going to take place? Left field?

When an extremely intelligent politician tells you over and over and over that he is tired of the take-no-prisoners politics of the last several decades, that he is going to get things done and build a “new consensus,” he is trying to explain that he is all about compromise. Even if he says it in that great Baracky way.
Bingo. This is why I am surprised when liberals accuse Obama of moving towards the center. That's where he has always been. His raison d'etre, his modus operandi is to find a middle ground. If you deeply, passionately committed to one position, that will probably piss you off. If you are interested in resolving differences and getting things done, it's much more your style. Obama is not an ideological liberal. The sooner liberals figure that out, the better they will be able to deal with Obama.

Obama usually ends up on the liberal side of issues, but not because he's a liberal. He ends up there because he thinks things through, and usually ends up on the liberal side of an argument. But not necessarily.

Gail Collins explains it perfectly:

if you look at the political fights he’s picked throughout his political career, the main theme is not any ideology. It’s that he hates stupidity.
. . .
Most of the things Obama’s taken heat for saying this summer fall into these two familiar patterns — attempts to find a rational common ground on controversial issues and dumb-avoidance.
I love that: dumb-avoidance. If there is one thing that Americans should be in favor of in their next president, it is dumb-avoidance. I think many, many Americans, of all ideological persuasions, will agree that the President of the United States should be smart.

What George Bush demanded of his supporters was unthinking, unswerving loyalty. What Barack Obama demands of his supporters is the exact opposite. Barack Obama demands of his supporters that they adhere to that old-fashioned definition of what liberals do: Barack Obama expects his supporters to think for themselves.

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