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The Obama Jolt: Is Barack a secret centrist?
Weekly Standard ^ | Nov 28,2008 | Fred Barnes

Posted on 11/29/2008 9:55:36 AM PST by SeekAndFind

Barack Obama wants to give the economy a jolt. So far, though, the biggest jolt we've seen is the one the economy has given to Obama. That jolt, in the form of a plummeting stock market, upset Obama's desire for a leisurely transition. It made him virtually America's acting president.

Obama is fond of saying-he said it again last week-that the country has only one president at a time, and until January 20 it's George W. Bush. True enough, but financial markets don't look at Washington that way. They focus on the future, and that means Obama. Financial markets demanded at least some comforting hints about Obama's plans for reversing the economic downturn.

Reluctantly, Obama has begun to provide them. But it took a 900-point dip in the stock market, plus persistent pleas, for Obama to act. After two days of market collapse, his aides spread the word that Obama's choice for secretary of the Treasury would be Timothy Geithner, the head of the Federal Reserve in New York.

Last week, Obama made his choice of Geithner official. And he named former Treasury secretary Larry Summers his top economic counselor at the White House and chose a monetarist, Christina Romer of the University of California at Berkeley, as the head of the Council of Economic Advisers. The stock market rallied. This was change financial markets could believe in.

There's a larger point here. It's not that Obama, despite his unswervingly liberal record in the Senate, turns out to be a pragmatist. The point is he's pragmatic (so far) in one direction-rightward. Who knew?

His national security choices also underscore this point. Hillary Clinton benefits from not being John Kerry, who desperately wants to be secretary of state. And Obama owes Kerry for having lifted him from obscurity and made him keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic convention. But knowing Kerry, Obama looked elsewhere and fastened on Clinton as his secretary of state.

Clinton, for all her shortcomings, doesn't hail from the surrender-at-all-costs wing of the Democratic party. Nor does retired Marine general Jim Jones, who's slated to be Obama's national security adviser. Jones, an Iraq war skeptic, is a strong supporter of offshore drilling and other steps to increase domestic production of oil and gas.

Then there's Bob Gates, Bush's defense secretary. Obama wants to keep him at the Pentagon for another year. Liberals and the media like Gates because he replaced the man they loved to hate, Donald Rumsfeld. But Gates is no dove and no ally of the antiwar left.

So the scoreboard looks like this: Three of the four cabinet posts that matter most are going to those with views acceptable to the center-right of the Democratic party. That's Geithner, Clinton, and Gates. The fourth, attorney general, will provoke a confirmation fight if Obama chooses his buddy Eric Holder, famous as President Clinton's deputy attorney general for facilitating the pardon of Marc Rich.

Three out of four isn't bad. Conservatives aren't jumping for joy. But imagine how the left wing of the Democratic party-the dominant wing, after all-feels. Let down would be an understatement.

Organized labor must be crazed over the selection of Summers. As a believer in the indispensability of global trade, Summers is bound to advise Obama to reject labor's call for limitations on trade, especially during a world financial breakdown. In fact, I suspect he's already urged Obama to go along with "card check," labor's latest scheme for unionizing workers, but not the protectionist agenda. Tinkering with trade would unsettle financial markets.

And how about the environmental lobby, which totally embraced Obama? Jones will be hard for environmentalists to stomach. And the foreign policy left? The left views Jones, Clinton, and Gates as enemies.

The losers in the Obama administration, as of now, are Joe Biden and Susan Rice, favorites of the left. Biden's role in foreign policy is likely to be minimal with Clinton at the State Department. She'll squash him if he sticks his head up. Rice, an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration and an Obama campaign adviser, may wind up as United Nations ambassador, a highly visible but inconsequential post. She'll have little influence.

The Washington cliché about appointments is that personnel is policy. It's an exaggeration but essentially true. If Obama wants to pursue economic and national security policies that would thrill, William Ayers, and the Democratic left, he has a funny way of showing it. The only reasonable conclusion is he's spurning the left.

Obama has dozens of lesser posts to fill, and no doubt he'll use some of those jobs to assuage the left. Labor can probably have whomever it wants as secretary of labor. For all Obama's talk about education reform, chances are he'll bow to the teachers' lobby in choosing an education secretary. If former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle becomes health and human services secretary, that will please the single-payer crowd and the champions of more government-managed health care.

But financial markets are Obama's overriding concern as president-elect. In their eyes, he's acting president. In his postelection press conference on November 7, Obama said his aides would be monitoring markets and the economy. The transition, in other words, would be relaxed and unhurried.

Last week, Obama's tone had changed. He was alarmed. He held press conferences three days in a row. He said he'd be getting full daily briefings on what's happening on Wall Street and Main Street. "We don't intend to stumble into the next administration," he said.

In trying to give financial markets a sense of comfort and continuity about his priorities, Obama might have provided one further note of assurance: that he won't raise taxes in 2009 or 2010. He stopped short of that.

But he offered a signal. Interviewed on 60 Minutes, Obama said, "We shouldn't worry about the deficit next year or even the year after." Later he told reporters his advisers would recommend whether to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the well-to-do and on capital gains and dividends, or merely allow the cuts to be "not renewed" and thus expire at the end of 2010. With the door opened to leaving the cuts in place, shutting it would be hazardous. Keeping the cuts would enrage the left, but financial markets would appreciate the jolt.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: 111th; bho2008; brokenpromises; centrist; fredbarnes; obama
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To: Captain Kirk

Exactly, well said.

21 posted on 11/29/2008 10:22:52 AM PST by Extremely Extreme Extremist
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To: SeekAndFind

It is not what he does out in the open that bothers me so much. It is what he does behind the scenes, a la Clinton’s Los Alomos security breaches, FNMA subprime, stacking Federal agencies with committed leftists that undermine future conservative administrations, deals cut with foreign countries or groups (Muslims or Communists) that undermine the interests and culture of our country. That is where Slick did the most damage.

22 posted on 11/29/2008 10:24:14 AM PST by RatRipper
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To: SeekAndFind

No, he is a communist that knows he will be impeached if he tries to implement laws that are to radical and strict. However, he will chip away at our freedoms as stealthily as he can, hoping to be re-elected in 2012.

23 posted on 11/29/2008 10:24:15 AM PST by calex59
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To: Republic of Texas
No, he’s not a centrist. He just doesn’t have his hands on the reins of power, yet. As soon as he does, we’ll see the real Obama. He’s not going to tip his hand prematurely.

Bingo. And most of these "centrists" will be gone a year from now, after some "generated crisis" requires radical restructuring of power into the executive branch.

24 posted on 11/29/2008 10:27:25 AM PST by hinckley buzzard
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To: SeekAndFind
Fred just go away. Denial does not become you.
25 posted on 11/29/2008 10:30:09 AM PST by mad_as_he$$ (Nemo me impune lacessit.)
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To: BlessedBeGod

No, just stupid.

26 posted on 11/29/2008 10:30:45 AM PST by pgkdan ( All Catholics should know supporting Obama constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil.)
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To: Nathan Zachary
The market isn’t reacting to the future, because the future isn’t here yet.

The conventional wisdom is that the market looks ahead six months to a year, trying to anticipate developments. I don't think much of this idea but it seems to be a popular notion when pundits wax financial.

27 posted on 11/29/2008 10:31:36 AM PST by hinckley buzzard
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To: SeekAndFind

...are media are the STUPIDEST people imaginable. Have you seen Obama’s wish list? There is nothing centrist on it.

28 posted on 11/29/2008 10:31:47 AM PST by Tzimisce (
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To: whitedog57
No Fred, Obama is a Marxist and wants to get re-elected....

That is exactly correct, he will NOT do anything that would cause alarm to the masses openly until after his re-election... However, an override veto proof liberal Congress may well be his undoing.

29 posted on 11/29/2008 10:32:32 AM PST by Just mythoughts (Isa.3:4 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.)
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To: what's up
"Obama will be forced toward the center because secretly Dems know that conservative fiscal principles work."

Obama will be forced to do nothing at first because the nation is broke. Bush is doing a good job of spending everything he can, even everything Obama could possibly borrow, at least for the short term, because the cupboards are going to be pretty empty when Obama gets to look in them on Jan 20. It's going to take Obama a while to find some money to spend, and we all know where it's going to come from; Military spending, and taxes. So the first thing Obama is going to do is figure out his budget. When he announces that, then we know what his priorities will be as he attempts to turn the USA into a Marxist imperialist dynasty.

30 posted on 11/29/2008 10:32:50 AM PST by Nathan Zachary
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To: whitedog57

You got that right. Currently, he bringing all the markist clintoonites back in office. Read today he’s going to bring the biggest changes in Interior and EPA starting with pro-global warming nuts. This undoubtedly will make albore totally happy since he stands to financially gain with all the investments in “global warming”. Bah!

31 posted on 11/29/2008 10:42:09 AM PST by lilylangtree (Veni, Vidi, Vici)
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To: calex59
Here's a thought: the legacy, the stigma he's about to lay down for ALL blacks in the US. If the nations first black president screws this up, won't he cast a very unfavorable light on his race.Conversely he'll open the doors of oppurtunity for blacks for decades if he does the country right.

I sure as hell wouldn't want that responsibility. So...what's it gonna' be ? Mainstream or Marxist ?

32 posted on 11/29/2008 10:42:45 AM PST by chiller (I hope he comes to his senses, but fear stealth socialist indoctrination and economics)
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To: Nathan Zachary
Obama will be forced to do nothing at first because the nation is broke

A nation being broke never stops a liberal/socialist agenda.

Hussein could do like FDR; even tho the nation is broke he could increase taxes in order to create new gov't jobs, using the Keynesian philosophy to "fix the economy".

Most likely he will not. We are in a different time and the nation won't react as favorably toward such moves as they did with FDR. If the stock market continues to go down he will be blamed by a large middle class. And if there's one thing Hussein can't stand, it's being unpopular.

33 posted on 11/29/2008 10:44:51 AM PST by what's up
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To: lilylangtree

who is he thinking about for Interior?

34 posted on 11/29/2008 10:45:11 AM PST by LadyBuzz
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To: SeekAndFind

Fred Barnes’ discernment meter needs repair; it’s constantly pegging on zero.

35 posted on 11/29/2008 10:48:13 AM PST by Matchett-PI (2008 = Was The Year of the Toilet for 'rats (they just don't know it yet).)
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To: LadyBuzz

We’ve heard Grevalda of AZ. for Interior, but I don’t know why, or how serious it is. Reliably lefty.

36 posted on 11/29/2008 10:49:14 AM PST by chiller (I hope he comes to his senses, but fear stealth socialist indoctrination and economics)
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To: LadyBuzz


You might want to skip the BS editorial entitled “Obama girls an ideal to aspire to”.

37 posted on 11/29/2008 10:49:43 AM PST by lilylangtree (Veni, Vidi, Vici)
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To: chiller
"Here's a thought: the legacy, the stigma he's about to lay down for ALL blacks in the US."


38 posted on 11/29/2008 10:57:41 AM PST by Nathan Zachary
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To: SeekAndFind

Fred got a taste of the Obama Kool Aid during the campaign, and now he’s addicted, but he denies it like any addict does

39 posted on 11/29/2008 10:58:25 AM PST by re_tail20
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To: SeekAndFind
Where is this guy central to anything? His voting record is so far left it fell of the table.
40 posted on 11/29/2008 11:00:06 AM PST by Cheetahcat (Osamabama the Wright kind of Racist!)
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