This National Journal study will likely be one of the Republicans must trusted and used ally in the next campaign. Defining Obama's liberalism in this election will become one of the most important parts of the race. If Obama is defined as an extremist, that will be quite counter to the image he is forming of someone that is looking to end the partisanship. Extremists don't end partisanship, they contribute to it. Obama must define himself as a moderate while his opponents must define him as a liberal. That definition will be central to which side wins in November.
Enter this piece on CBS News. Now, it is no secret that the media has largely been in the tank for Obama. It is so absurd that SNL recently spoofed their outrageous behavior. Obama was largely insulated from his wife's comments for instance. The media has shown a blatant bias toward him against Hillary Clinton. He has been allowed to largely run on themes without being challenged on specifics. Given their behavior so far, we can expect the MSM to do everything they can to define him as a moderate.
This particular piece has several elements of what I consider to be many of the problems with much of today's journalism. This piece tries to paint a narrative with largely vague and undefined references.
Binder notes that Obama has spent his time in the Senate on "midrange issues," such as ethics reform and nuclear proliferation, where he could more easily find a Republican senator that would be open to working with him. "He wasn't working on issues where you have hard Democratic vs. Republican divides," she said. "He seems to have very carefully chosen out areas where there were prospects of success and where he could find like-minded people across the aisle."What the article does is randomly choose a handful of folks to give largely anecdotal observations about a subjective issue. It is hardly a surprise that a Democrat sees Obama is moderate, a Republican as liberal, and a political commentator is unsure. By doing this, the article frames his liberalism by his personality. This is frankly no way to judge or make a standard and furthermore it allows Obama to continue making his campaign about themes and actually define his liberalism through his themes. (Obama would like to define himself as a moderate through his message of ending partisanship, hope and change.)
Democratic Illinois State Senator Denny Jacobs, who played poker with Obama when they were both state legislators, disagrees. "He brought some ethics reform to Illinois, and that's no easy thing," said Jacobs. "He worked with both sides of the aisle to get that done. I think he's pragmatic. Illinois is the wild west of campaign finance, and Barack came in here and created some rules." "I think that what he's proven is that he does believe in something, he does have a core, but he's also someone who can move people from both sides to a resolution," Jacobs added.
Republican Illinois State Senator Bill Brady, who also worked with Obama, said Obama was "probably the most liberal member of the Illinois State Senate" - in part because he "represented the most liberal area in the state." (Epstein, using roll call vote and bill co-sponsorship data, found Obama to be the 6th most liberal in the State Senate.)
The way I would define Obama's liberalism is to focus on what his positions are on most of the issues of the day. On the issue of illegal immigration, he is unabashadly open borders. He is largely protectionist on trade. On the issue of jobs, his plan has elements of income redistribution combined with government lead spending to create jobs. (both largely liberal ideas) On the issue of health care, he supports socialized medicine. On social issues he runs to the left of Planned Parenthood on abortion. On the issue of foreign policy, he has shown a desire for unconditional meetings with most of our enemies. He favors the protection of civil liberties over anti terror measures. Finally, he takes a traditional Democrat pro union stance.
Defining Obama's liberalism by defining Obama's stances on the important issues of our time does one other thing for the Republicans. It moves Obama away from his hopeful and uplifting message and gets him discussing specifics. Obama wins as long as the race is about hope and change, and he loses once hope and change are defined by specific policy. it will be interesting to see if it is defined the way I did it, or the way the article did it. The manner in which it is approached will go a long way toward determining the winner in November.