The past week has confirmed -- among many things -- this: that as John McCain warned repeatedly, Barack Obama consists of leftist essence pure.
We are not talking Republican/Democratic partisan politics here so much as conservative/liberal ideology, though ideology greatly informs partisanship. Both parties used to be big-tent operations, with liberals and conservatives in both. Now liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats are endangered species -- just about extinct.
Democrats shun the terms "leftist" and "liberal," coveting "moderate" and "centrist" as ever so much more seductive and marketable. (Obama has been heard from time to time to reference himself as a "progressive.") Liberals usually deploy "conservative" in a pejorative sense -- connoting a set of rigid values or Neanderthal beliefs with which they deeply disagree.
The past week saw various Obama selectees for high administration posts stumble or fall primarily because they hadn't paid their taxes. The week also offered the possibility of the administration's "stimulus" package failing to win congressional approval. The president declared he "screwed up" regarding the nominees. Members of his vetting team said they were well aware of the tax problems yet deemed the flawed selectees dwellers of thin-aired Olympian realms far above the law.
The stimulus? No more Mr. Nice-Guy for Barack Obama. He shelved the "bipartisanship" theme on which he campaigned, and set to ripping not the Democrats who hold lopsided margins in both houses -- but the Republicans. Never mind that the Democrats could pass practically any stimulus package their hearts desired without a single Republican vote (as the House Democrats did), the threats to passage were almost entirely the Republicans' fault.
Republican complaints about the stimulus package were (and are) essentially that it provides too few tax cuts and too much social spending -- and what little genuine stimulus it contains will take years to generate any beneficial effect. It is difficult to see how anyone could construe this as somehow ideologically obstreperous.
Yet in a series of remarks, Obama said look, he reached out to the Republicans in both houses, engaged them, had conversations with them, listened to them. Still, they had "come to the table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped to create this crisis."
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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