Bob Herbert is angry. This is not even remotely surprising. Bob Herbert is very often angry.
I find this idea that Obama is "lurching" to the center patently absurd. On the death penatly and gun control, he has been consistent; he supports the death penalty for extreme cases (which I find surprising and disappointing) and he believes that the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to own guns. I intend to write about both of those at greater length later, but for now I want to point out that the president's position on those is actually mostly irrelevant: most death penalty and gun control legislation is passed at the state level.
Bob Herbert would be well advised to pay attention to this article in his own newspaper:
Barack Obama had heard quite enough of the complaints that he is pirouetting, leaping, lurching even, toward the political center.What I think has liberals riled up is the discovery that Obama does not have the assumed liberal positions on these issues. He has not changed; what changed was that people started paying attention to these issues, mostly because of a couple of Supreme Court decisions, and suddenly they discovered that they disagreed with him.
He is at heart, he told a crowd in suburban Atlanta, a pretty progressive guy who just happens to pack along a complicated world view.
“Look, let me talk about the broader issue, this whole notion that I am shifting to the center,” he said. “The people who say this apparently haven’t been listening to me.”
Welcome to democracy, folks.
I find it bizarre that people would express such profound disappointment at such an early stage of the campaign. The man has not even won election yet. Hold your fire and keep your powder dry, people, and save the outrage for the big fights, when he's actually trying to get legislation passed. Right now, people like Bob Herbert sound like they are crying wolf.
I think one problem too many liberals have is that they are simply too accustomed to automatically criticizing politicians, so their knee-jerk response when something happens that they don't agree with is to wail and moan and make grand pronouncements. You wonder how these people make it through the day.
I think Obama should propose legislation mandating prescriptions of Valium for all liberal political commentators. So they can learn to chill out.
Another problem is that too many liberals simply have no experience with a president, or even a major politician, that they can really trust. They're so used to being profoundly disappointed, they don't know how to deal with trivial disappointments.
On the big issues, like withdrawing from Iraq or achieving universal health care, Obama has not wavered. He believes that we can withdraw troops from Iraq at a rate of 1 to 2 brigades a month, and that at that pace, we can have all troops out in 16 months. That is the message that he has been sending on this issue ever since the campaign began. On health care, he hasn't wavered at all.
Here's some more perspective. I am strongly opposed to the death penalty, and had two internships in Washington, DC, opposing it. I'm also in favor of gun control. But neither of those two issues has ever directly affected me, and, God willing, neither of them ever will. But health care affects me constantly.
By far the biggest issue that I have with Mr. Herbert's column is that the idea that Obama is moving to the center and flip-flopping on key issues is part of the Republican's attacks. And the worst possible thing that Bob Herbert can do for Barack Obama is to perpetuate John McCain's ridiculous attacks on him.