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Sunday, June 14, 2009

President What Works Best

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama was fond of saying things like this.

In the interview, for example, he argued that his proposals on health care and the economy, which call for a stronger government role and more regulation, were really about what works.

“I’m interested in solving problems as opposed to imposing doctrine,” he said. “I see a lot of convergence of interests among people who in traditional terms are considered to be divided politically.”

It was in keeping with his campaign theme. He defied ideology. He was portrayed by the media as someone with extraordinary intellect. So, he played that into a persona of an individual that could bring all sides together, listen to all ideas, and then decide what's best ideology be damned. By presenting himself as the pragmatic moderate he could defy traditional ideological stereotypes even while carrying a ridiculously liberal voting record. The political landscape has been littered with failed electoral runs of those that have been typecast into an ideology. Barack Obama wasn't going to allow that to happen to himself.

The president has continued this theme all the while painting opponents as beholden to ideology.

There are things that can be done that – Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative – we all know need to happen. The challenge is going to revolve around how do we deal with the 20 percent of the stuff where people disagree?” Obama said. “This whole issue of the public plan is a good example, by the way. I mean, right now, a number of my Republican friends have said, ‘We can't support anything with a public option.’ It's not clear that it's based on any evidence, as much as it is their thinking, their fear that somehow, once you have a public plan, that government will take over the entire health-care system.”

Here, the president paints anyone against the public option as being beholden to ideology and not viewing the world as "what works best". As such,their objections are merely ideological.

The simple reality is that President Obama has been anything but the pragmatist above ideology. President Obama once famously told Eric Cantor in response to a concern by Cantor, "well I won so I trump you on that". That's not exactly the pragmatist that weighs all policies and chooses the best one.

More than one off handed statement are the sum total of policies that President Obama has engaged. The stimulus was written and debated exclusively by Democrats. All of the Republicans tax cuts were excluded. They were excluded from any part of crafting it. On the stimulus, what works is what he and his allies wanted.

The same is true of both health care and energy. He's not entertaining health savings accounts. Yet, he's demanding the public option, and accuses opponents of that option of being beholden to ideology. On energy, he wants cap and trade. He refuses to consider off shore drilling, nuclear power expansion, and any Republican ideas. On all of his domestic proposals, what works best for the president is a massive expansion of the government. For someone that wants to consider what works best over ideology, it's peculiar that what works best seems to overwhelmingly wind up being a liberal idea.

Frankly, I don't so much mind the president acting with a distinct ideology. What is offensive is two fold. First, his assertion that he is about "what works" implies that prior presidents didn't do what they believed worked. It's as if Ronald Reagan wasn't doing what he thought would work but intentionally implementing that which he thought would fail. Everyone wants to implement what works. What you think works defines your ideology. The president continues to mistake what he thinks works and what actually works. No one has a monopoly on what does work. That's what debate is for. It's arrogant to presume that you have a monopoly on those ideas. The president's assertion is both disingenuous and arrogant. He continues to presume that he is the one that is right and everyone else is wrong. That's not what works best but just plain arrogant.

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