Jonah Goldberg

"I think increasingly the American people are going to say to themselves, 'You know what? If a party or a politician is constantly taking the position my-way-or-the-highway, constantly being locked into ideologically rigid positions, that we're going to remember at the polls,'" President Obama said at his Friday news conference.

I know everyone is sick of hearing about the debt-limit negotiations. Lord knows I am. When I turn on the news these days, I feel like one of the passengers seated next to Robert Hays in the movie "Airplane!" By the time we get to the phrase "in the out years," I'm ready to pour a can of gasoline over my head.

Still, regardless of how things turn out with the negotiations, what we are witnessing is the rollout of the Obama re-election campaign's theme: Obama is the pragmatic voice of reason holding the ideologues at bay.

So it's worth asking, before this branding campaign gels into the conventional wisdom: Who is the real ideologue here?

The president, we are told, is a pragmatist for wanting a "fair and balanced" budget deal. What that means is tax increases must accompany spending cuts. Any significant spending cuts would be way in the future. The tax increases would begin right after Obama is re-elected.

Now keep in mind that tax hikes (or what the administration calls "revenue increases") are Obama's idee fixe. He campaigned on raising taxes for millionaires and billionaires (defined in the small print as people making more than $200,000 a year or couples making $250,000).

During a primary debate, he was asked by ABC's Charles Gibson if he would raise the capital gains tax even if he knew that cutting it would generate more revenue for the government. The non-ideologue responded that raising the tax, even if doing so would lower revenue, might be warranted out of "fairness." As he said to Joe the Plumber, things are better when you "spread the wealth around."

Earlier last week, referring to the fact that he is rich, the president said: "I do not want, and I will not accept, a deal in which I am asked to do nothing. In fact, I'm able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don't need."

Leaving aside the fact that the man lives in public housing and has a government jet at his disposal -- so his definition of "need" might be a bit out of whack -- what is pragmatic about this position?

Obama says that Republicans are rigid ideologues because they won't put "everything on the table." Specifically, they won't consider tax hikes, even though polls suggest Americans wouldn't mind soaking "the rich," "big oil" and "corporate jet owners."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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