David Brooks voices the exasperation many moderates feel over the latest Obama pivot.
I liked Obama's payroll tax cut ideas and urged Republicans to play along. But of course I'm a sap. When the president unveiled the second half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a campaign marker, not a jobs bill.
It recycles ideas that couldn't get passed even when Democrats controlled Congress. In his remarks Monday the president didn't try to win Republicans to even some parts of his measures. He repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives.
I said much the same in this FT column yesterday. Even so I'm not sure that this latest iteration is bad politics, so long as Obama sticks with it.
Despite the headline on the FT piece (which did not quite marry with the content), I argued that what Obama most needs to do is stop vacillating between being a good liberal one day and a non-partisan pragmatist the next. Yes, if I were advising him, I'd recommend consistent centrism--both on the merits (I'm a centrist, after all) and because I think that with the GOP moving right this would be clever politics. In the short term, it would also improve the chances of getting at least some additional stimulus quickly. But I'm not sure a fire-up-the-base strategy is certain to fail with voters, so long as Obama sticks with it. It's the endless iterations that have disappointed everyone and made him seem unmoored and untrustworthy.