Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Is Obama a secret centrist?

That's the subtitle of Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes recent article. He speculates on what sort of president will Barack Obama be.

He notes that:

So the scoreboard looks like this: Three of the four cabinet posts that matter most are going to those with views acceptable to the center-right of the Democratic party. That's Geithner, Clinton, and Gates. The fourth, attorney general, will provoke a confirmation fight if Obama chooses his buddy Eric Holder, famous as President Clinton's deputy attorney general for facilitating the pardon of Marc Rich.

Three out of four isn't bad. Conservatives aren't jumping for joy. But imagine how the left wing of the Democratic party-the dominant wing, after all-feels. Let down would be an understatement.

Organized labor must be crazed over the selection of Summers. As a believer in the indispensability of global trade, Summers is bound to advise Obama to reject labor's call for limitations on trade, especially during a world financial breakdown. In fact, I suspect he's already urged Obama to go along with "card check," labor's latest scheme for unionizing workers, but not the protectionist agenda. Tinkering with trade would unsettle financial markets.

And how about the environmental lobby, which totally embraced Obama? Jones will be hard for environmentalists to stomach. And the foreign policy left? The left views Jones, Clinton, and Gates as enemies.

The losers in the Obama administration, as of now, are Joe Biden and Susan Rice, favorites of the left. Biden's role in foreign policy is likely to be minimal with Clinton at the State Department. She'll squash him if he sticks his head up. Rice, an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration and an Obama campaign adviser, may wind up as United Nations ambassador, a highly visible but inconsequential post. She'll have little influence.

The Washington cliché about appointments is that personnel is policy. It's an exaggeration but essentially true. If Obama wants to pursue economic and national security policies that would thrill MoveOn.org, William Ayers, and the Democratic left, he has a funny way of showing it. The only reasonable conclusion is he's spurning the left.

I suspect where his left leaning tendencies will come out will be on domestic, social issues. Daschle at HHS will push for government-run universal health care. Obama will appoint very liberal judges. And he'll appeal to homosexuals by pushing for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. And on abortion, he'll push for FOCA which would codify abortion on demand.

As Barnes notes:

Obama has dozens of lesser posts to fill, and no doubt he'll use some of those jobs to assuage the left. Labor can probably have whomever it wants as secretary of labor. For all Obama's talk about education reform, chances are he'll bow to the teachers' lobby in choosing an education secretary. If former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle becomes health and human services secretary, that will please the single-payer crowd and the champions of more government-managed health care.

Political realities have a way of straight jacketing politicians, including presidents. Especially today when our economy is in a state of crisis, and internationally, storm clouds are building around the world.

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