the bistro off broadway
The Hill
Obama gives no hint if he will lean to center or left during second term
By Niall Stanage and Amie Parnes
Saying, “I didn’t get reelected to bask in reelection. I got elected to do work,” President Obama on Wednesday set out his stall for the first months of his second term.

But he gave no clear hint about whether he would tack to the left or to the center now that he has run his last election campaign.

On several big issues, including the fiscal cliff, immigration reform and climate change, the president’s comments at his first press conference since winning a second term in the Oval Office contained enough to buttress arguments both of those who say he is a reflexive left-winger and those who say, rather, that he is a pragmatic deal-maker.

On all the biggest issues of the day, he suggested that there was a path to bipartisan agreement, but he simultaneously framed each topic so as to showcase his commitment to Democratic priorities: upping tax rates on those earning more than $250,000 a year, providing “a pathway for legal status” for illegal immigrants and doing more to reduce carbon emissions.

The White House news conference, therefore, did nothing to resolve one of the central debates that has always swirled around him.

Is he a committed liberal who had to trim his sails because the 2012 election loomed? Or is he in fact a centrist uncomfortable with what his erstwhile spokesman Robert Gibbs once derided as “the professional left”?

In general, it has been those on the right who have seen him as a radical, and those on the left who have been suspicious of the accommodationist tendencies they claim to discern.

The divergence was often apparent in the way particular issues were viewed. Conservatives, united in their distaste for the Affordable Care Act, insisted that it represented a massive governmental overreach. But there were plenty of people on the left who believed it did not go far enough toward a single-payer system.

Some of Obama’s closest backers insist that it is too crude to see him as a liberal or centrist, per se.

A former senior administration official said Obama shouldn’t be labeled under either category.

“I don’t think he would characterize himself in either way,” the former official said. “I think he would say that the American people sent him to deal with big problems and you can call him whatever you want but he’s more concerned with addressing these big issues.”

The official added the argument that Obama was “pretty pragmatic” in his first term.

“Ask liberals what they thought and ask conservatives and everyone will have their own axes to grind,” the official said. “When you have both sides saying that, I’d argue he’s being pragmatic.”

Several outside observers amplified this point. Princeton Professor Julian Zelizer asserted that Obama subscribes to the standard Democratic view on most big issues, but knows that he needs to accept some give-and-take as the price of getting things done.

Read the rest of the article at The Hill

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