Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama, a 'Liberal Wolf in Centrist Sheep's Clothing'?

Victor Navasky disagrees with all those pundits calling Obama a 'centrist:'
First, as our friend and backer Paul Newman used to remind us, The Nation was valuable because it helps define where the center is. The center can shift. When Obama added to his ritualistic description of America as "a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus" a new category--"nonbelievers"--it was almost unbelievable, as he quickly helped redefine where the center was.

Second, based on what we know about Obama--his books, his initial intuitive stand against the war in Iraq, his Senate voting record, his campaign, his inaugural speech--I don't believe it. At most, he seems to me a liberal wolf in centrist sheep's clothing.

And finally, faced with the ever-more-dire economic crisis, his commitment to a Keynes-based economic stimulus and renewed regulatory rigor (see his inaugural reference to not letting the market "spin out of control") suggests that, at a minimum, he flunked Centrism 101.

Rather, I prefer to believe that his reach across the aisle, his cabinet appointments and his opening to the renegade Joe Lieberman and his erstwhile opponent John McCain himself are part of his pragmatic plan to advance an agenda that goes beyond anything the so-called center might contain. Whether or not it will work, that is the question.

All this of course remains to be seen. Obama's first day was certainly encouraging. But somehow I find it difficult to think of Obama as a 'liberal wolf in centrist sheep's clothing.' Perhaps it's more the other way around? Does Navasky's formulation, 'I prefer to believe,' perhaps still betray too much wishful thinking, as has been pretty common on the left lately concerning Obama's inclinations?

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