Conventional Wisdom Watch

My friend Chuck Lane echoes the Beltway CW (as of today, anyway):

For months now, Bayh has been screaming at the top of his voice that the party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda -- one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade.

Where to start? Well, first where I agree with Chuck. The selling of health insurance reform by the Democrats, and their allowing the nuttier parts of the right to define the issue, remains unforgivable. The Democrats, by and large, are the most pathetic bunch of panty-waists I have ever come across. They couldn't sell a Jager shot to an alcoholic. That they could not persuade a majority that ending the cruelties of the pre-existing conditions exclusions, and bringing some small measure of health security to 40 million struggling Americans and cutting the deficit at the same time wasn't centrist ... well, there's a reason many of us find the whole lot of them a sad sack of shifting saps.

Obama should have done more - but it is not as if he didn't have a whole host of other things to deal with. among them ... a financial crisis that could have created a Second Great Depression, a failing war in Afghanistan, a volatile and dangerous Iran, a still very, very fragile Iraq, Netanyahu's threat to launch a war on Iran, an automobile industry on the brink, a housing crisis, a massive debt he had nothing to do with, a totally obstructionist and increasingly fanatical GOP, Gitmo, the legacy of the past administration's war crimes, gays in the military ... you get the picture.

But here's what I don't get:

Obama's stimulus did save jobs that would otherwise have been wiped out if the downward spiral had intensified; his unpopular rescuing of the banks did the same, however infuriating helping those bastards was; he restructured the car industry to save countless jobs; he certainly cannot be held responsible for the collapse of the recent jobs package. And as Chuck well knows, the brutal fact is that there is not much Obama can do to avoid the brutal and long hangover from the housing bubble and financial crisis more than he has. And if he had nationalized the banks and doubled the stimulus, the Beltway pundits would doubtless be decrying his lack of centrism on that as well.

And since when is Obama's health insurance reform bill not centrist? It will cut the deficit, according to the CBO. As Jon Rauch definitively explains here, it represents a very moderate compromise on core policy ideas of both sides. And on fiscal responsibility, surely Chuck agrees that cutting spending in the last year would have been nuts. And Obama has backed a bipartisan commission on long-term fiscal reform that the GOP has simply blocked. As to cap and trade, the question is simply one of whether the climate crisis needs to be tackled now rather than later. Perhaps, politically, it was too much too soon. but on this matter, short term political positioning must be weighed against actual science and actual threats to the environment that we do not have an endless amount of time to fix.