Saturday, December 26, 2009

Obama Loathed by Ideologues

Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist for the NYT, has some interesting observations about Obama. But ultimately, he reaches the wrong conclusion. He does have an agenda as a conservative (ideologue) after all.
Every presidency is the subject of competing caricatures. But almost a year into his first term, there’s something particularly elusive about Barack Obama’s political identity. He’s a bipartisan bridge-builder — unless he’s a polarizing ideologue. He’s a crypto-Marxist radical — except when he’s a pawn of corporate interests. He’s a post-American utopian — or else he’s a willing tool of the national security state.

The press has churned out a new theory every week, comparing Obama to John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, to George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter — to every 20th-century chief executive, it often seems, save poor, dull Gerald Ford. But none of the analogies have stuck. We’re well into the Obama era, but neither his allies nor his enemies can quite get a fix on exactly what our 44th president really represents.

Obama baffles observers, I suspect, because he’s an ideologue and a pragmatist all at once. He’s a doctrinaire liberal who’s always willing to cut a deal and grab for half the loaf. He has the policy preferences of a progressive blogger, but the governing style of a seasoned Beltway wheeler-dealer.
I don't consider Obama an ideologue at all. He governs with certain values but he takes in new information and quickly makes something of it. Douthat wrongly concludes:
This leaves him walking a fine line. If Obama’s presidency succeeds, it will be a testament to what ideology tempered by institutionalism can accomplish. But his political approach leaves him in constant danger of losing center and left alike — of being dismissed by independents as another tax-and-spender, and disdained by liberals as a sellout.
For the left, people at FireDogLake for example, they were bound to be disappointed.
FDL's Jane Hamsher is a fine example of an ideologue (Douthat, take note), which is someone who is unbendable, someone who has a worldview and tries to get everything around her to fit within that worldview. Hamsher couldn't for one minute understand a conservative viewpoint and vice versa. Ideologues are hell bent on being right. Ideologues tend to suffer myopia and they have the inability to empathize.
Though their world views are polar opposites, conservatives and liberals think in the same way.