Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Obama and the New Triangulation

Obama and the New Triangulation

Back in the dark days of 1995 and 1996, Bill Clinton was all about the "triangulation." He positioned himself between the Gingrich Republicans who had just taken over Congress and the supposedly out of touch liberal Democrats left playing defense in Congress. It was an era driven by both sides of the fence consultant Dick Morris, marked (or marred) by "micro" policies like school uniforms and V-chips, and capped by The End Of Welfare As We Know It.

This course steered a two-lane-wide Clinton straight down the yellow stripe, dominating both lanes through his lonely 1996 re-election while the GOP held Congress.

E.J. Dionne, while not calling it such, notes that on Guantanamo, Barack Obama is doing some triangulating of his own:
The idea, as far as I can determine, was to sell the liberal group on those aspects of Obama's plan that are a break from George W. Bush's policies, and to sell the centrist group on the toughness of the president's approach and the fact that it squares with Bush's more moderate moves later in his second term.

And Dionne says the remnants of the GOP are helping the triangulation:
For the left, which is unhappy about Obama's decisions on such issues as preventive detention, Cheney's outlandish explosion was a reminder of how much better Obama is than the guys who came before. While civil libertarians grumbled about parts of Obama's speech, much of the left concentrated its fire on Cheney.

So Obama's triangulation is positioning him between the left and the center, not between the left and the right as Clinton did. He's not all the way over into the bike lane the way I'd like, but he's driving on the left side of the road--and passing Republicans in the process.

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