This weekend should have been relaxing. It's almost August. Oregon is warm, dry, and sunny. Staining decks isn't my favorite activity, but I enjoy the simple manual labor.
However, for the past few days I've been running to my laptop every hour or two and checking on the progress of the debt limit negotiations.
Now that our investments have crawled back to within spitting distance of their value prior to the Big Crash, I'm not wild about a major market downturn -- which likely would happen if Congress and the President don't get their act together and avoid a totally avoidable economic crisis.
Which means, I'm not totally happy with it.
Apparently revenue increases are off the table, notwithstanding Obama's repeated insistence that a balanced approach to deficit reduction be followed: spending cuts and revenue enhancements.
But in my saner moments late this afternoon, after I'd learned about the outlines of the deal, I realized that Obama is acting like the sort of president my wife and I agreed we long for.
Driving around together last Friday, we got to talking about politics and the insanity of how the debt limit negotiations have beeen going. We're seriously irritated at all the drama, hissy-fits, walkouts, stonewalling, and general refusal to compromise for the good of the American people.
"I could see a third party emerging," my wife said. "Voters are fed up with extremism. They want to see our country's problems dealt with, not just simplistic polticial posturing."
I told her that I could vote for a moderate presidential candidate, maybe even an open-minded conservative like Jon Huntsman, so long as he or she was committed to getting beyond the right-left, R-D, I'm correct-you're wrong partisanship that's keeping us from being a truly United States.
it wasn't until this afternoon, though, that a light dawned in the political neurons of my brain. As I was pondering how Obama's deal-making disappointed me in some respects, I realized...
Any president with centrist, moderate, middle of the road leanings is going to disappoint people who tilt strongly right or left. Maybe Obama is the guy my wife and I were fantasizing about. Except, he's real -- our here and now president.
Many progressives think that Obama is a sell-out. I've thought that way at times. However, I've come to view him as a chess master rather than a checkers player. Meaning, those who expect an obvious and direct move often are disappointed, because his focus is on long-term strategy which is too subtle to clearly discern.
I suspect that Obama and his advisors have a game plan for how this debt limit deal is going to play out up to and past the 2012 elections.
They understand how the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will fit into a Democratic strategy. They know that a majority of voters support a balanced approach to handling our budget problems, so are willing to accept this initial daal and work to make future deficit reduction policies more centrist.
That said, E.J. Dionne makes some excellent points in his "Yes to moderation, No to centrism" critique of Obama.
At heart, he’s a moderate who likes balance. Yet Americans have lost track of what he’s really for. Occasionally you wonder if he’s lost track himself. He needs to remind us, and perhaps himself, why he wants to be our president.
He could give four or five big speeches — preferably at community colleges in states facing economic trouble — laying out a clear, detailed and, yes, inspirational plan for what the country needs to do to regain its standing and its confidence. And then he has to fight relentlessly to take the debate away from those who think government’s only job is to diminish itself.
Obama’s advisers are said to be obsessed with the political center, but such a focus leads to a reactive politics that won’t motivate the hope crowd that elected him in the first place. Neither will it alter a discourse whose terms were set during most of this debt fight by the right.
There’s nothing wrong with moderation that immoderate doses of conviction and courage won’t cure.