Excuses, Excuses

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Sep 01, 2009 3:23 PM

In today's column, David Brook urgently begs  President Obama to move to the center in order to avert political, policy and civic disaster.

Concluding, he asserts, "Events have pushed Barack Obama off to the left. Time to rebalance."

Hm.  Actually, "events" haven't pushed Obama to the left; he has been there all along.  What, exactly, did Brooks not get about Obama's rating as the most liberal senator during his tenure in the US Senate, his friendship with the likes of Bill Ayres and Jeremiah Wright -- or Ted Kennedy's endorsement of him over Hillary Clinton?  For anyone with eyes to see, it has long been obvious that Obama has been "off to the left" because that's where he's most comfortable. 

To the extent that his lefty instincts have now brought the President into political peril, ironically, he has his friends like Brooks to thank.  Obama's successful attempts to win Brooks (and some others on the right) over by talking moderate while acting liberal may have misled him into believing that he could do the same with the country at large.

Gabriel Sherman's account of the President's courtship of Brooks is also illuminating.  

[A]fter the Bush years, Brooks seems relieved to have an intellectual in the White House again. “I divide people into people who talk like us and who don’t talk like us,” he explains. “Of recent presidents, Clinton could sort of talk like us, but Obama is definitely--you could see him as a New Republic writer.

Overlooking the distinct whiff of snobbery in that exchange, it's obvious that Brooks has identified with Obama.  Could he be projecting his own instincts and hopes and wishes on the President, rather than seeing him for who he actually is?

After all, every President is the prisoner of events, to some degree.  But as Aldous Huxley once wrote, "Experience is not what happens to a man.  It is what a man does with what happens to him."

And the President has had many opportunities to control the events that are now coming back to bite him.  He could have had The White House more closely involved in both the stimulus plan and health care legislation.  Instead, he chose to outsource both to the most left-wing Congress in a generation.  Similarly, he could have told Eric Holder that he intended to stand by his decision not to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA officials.  But he didn't.

The President wants to maintain the plausible deniability that allows people like Brooks to think he's one of them.  In order to do so, he has been a liberal leader by proxy -- outsourcing the most controversial decisions to people whom, he knew, would make decisions most palatable to the far left.

But what Brooks -- and others like him -- should understand is that Obama knows a lot about how to woo people who "talk like us."  If you want to know where his sympathies really lie, look at his actions, not his words.