The Two Obamas

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Clive is very sharp in analyzing yesterday's presser. Obama both defended the deal to Democrats as the best he could do, given the extremism of his opponents, and vowed to press on with as much of the Democrats' priorities as possible ... and gave a more broad-based response to why he was determined to bridge both parties, to be a president of compromise and leadership beyond the partisan fray:

People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position--and no victories for the American people... This is a big diverse country. Not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people. Now the New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America ... neither does the Wall Street Journal editorial page ... And that means ... in order to get stuff done, you have to compromise. ... This country was founded on compromise ... If we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn't have a union.

Clive thinks Obama has to choose between these two stools. Yes, that would be more coherent, and I'd prefer the latter Obama. But I'm just a blogger and Clive is just a columnist. We can describe ideal types - but we don't have to bring a political coalition along with us. Obama hs no such luxury. He also has to rally his own party, by arguing that his pragmatism and centrism in the end advances liberal goals. My sense is that, just like Reagan, his entire record will be viewed soon through the prism of restored economic growth. Just like Reagan, he has now goosed the economy to bolster his re-election chances; which in turn shifts the debate to his own party's advantage.

If he can grab the debt question by the horns in his State of the Union - and reframe it, a la Bowles-Simpson, through tax reform and simplification - he will re-emerge as a formidable force.

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