Jan. 20, 2014
President Obama likes to think out-loud. His public comments often sound like the musings of a graduate student in a coffee shop conversation with his peers. Here are some of his recent ruminations:
On federalism: “You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government — that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable — and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments … (but) that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and (South Carolina Sen. John C.) Calhoun. There’s a pretty long history there.”
On the reasonableness of the Left: “The more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word. And I think at least leaders like myself — and I include Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in this — are willing to buck the more absolutist-wing elements in our party to try to get stuff done.”
On the power of repetitive rhetoric: “I’ve been in Washington long enough now to know that if once a week I’m not talking about jobs, the economy, and the middle class, then all manner of distraction fills the void.”
On U.S. foreign policy: “We remain the one indispensable nation. There’s a reason why … everybody asks what the U.S. is doing. It’s because the United States continues to be the one country that people expect can do more than just simply protect their borders. But that does not mean that we have to get involved with everything immediately. We have to think through strategically what’s going to be in our long-term national interests, even as we work cooperatively internationally.”
And so it goes: continuous qualification, judgments tempered by counter-judgments. As a conservative, I disagree with most of them (including most of those above). I am also wary of their purpose; are his public contemplations merely a mask, something he uses to hide his dogmatic liberal opinions? And given that he governs from the Left so consistently, is it not fair to question whether such musings matter, or if his appearance of empathetic understanding is really a mere pose?
Nuance only matters so much. Understanding both sides, or suggesting that you do, might lower the political heat a bit, which can be beneficial. But at some point, anyone in leadership has to decide. He or she has to come down on one side or another. And Mr. Obama always governs to the Left.