Paul Krugman opens Monday’s editorial asking the central question for the left about Barack Obama (“The Obama Agenda,” The New York Times, 30 June 2008):
It’s feeling a lot like 1992 right now. It’s also feeling a lot like 1980. But which parallel is closer? Is Barack Obama going to be a Ronald Reagan of the left, a president who fundamentally changes the country’s direction? Or will he be just another Bill Clinton?
Oddly enough, I found myself a supporter of Hillary Clinton in the primaries because I suspect the latter. Perhaps that was a little naive as I also suspect that Senator Clinton is fundamentally and genuinely conservative politically and personally.
No one can fight every battle and not every battle should be fought in the most direct manner. One must marshal one’s resources for the critical moment, and more times than not maneuver is superior to grabbing the bull by the horns. I presume that Senator Obama recognizes two things: first he has to get into the White House before he can do anything else and once there he will only be able to accomplish a small number of his objectives so he needs to dispense with the lesser objectives and focus on the really important ones.
For instance, voting for the FISA bill last week was, I presume, tactical. It takes that accusation off the table for the duration of the campaign. Everyone runs a stealth campaign anymore. You’ve got to avoid at all costs doing anything that could be used to provoke the middling mind of the independent voter. Once in the White House, then he will really be in a position to address the problems of the FISA program. Again, first win the election, then come the reforms. Would losing to John McCain serve the cause of FISA reform?
Presidents can only have limited power and limited time to accomplish their agenda. Senator Obama has to be eyeing that Oval Office desk and thinking Economy, Budget, Healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan, War on Terrorism and everything else will just have to take the back seat.
At least this is the story I am feeding myself to assuage my severe doubts that this will be another eight years of cowed liberalism. Senator Obama is giving us plenty of reason to believe otherwise.