Obama was asked in Virginia yesterday by a liberal audience if he would consider a real single-payer system. "We're talking about 1/6 of the economy here," he shot back, emphatically rejecting total nationalization. It is very important to him to introduce a government alternative without gutting the existing private system.
I suppose I should be comforted by the fact that Obama's rhetoric is rigorously moderate. But actually the opposite is happening; it is only making me more cynical. Obama made some very moderate statements about the auto industry, as well. Here was his position on March 30:
We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars. These companies — and this industry — must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state . . .Let me be clear: The United States government has no interest in running GM. We have no intention of running GM.
Ah, good. Sounds very moderate and responsible. But, a few months later, the government winds up acquiring a 60% stake in General Motors. I guess the United States government was interested in running GM.
When Obama was running for president, he was widely lauded as the sign of a "post-racial America." His "more perfect union" speech on race was an eloquent statement of how we can move past identity politics and embrace a common good. But then his first Supreme Court nominee is Sonya Sotomayor, who, no matter what you think of her relative merits, is not winning any prizes for being a "post-racial" icon. Were she not a Latina woman, would she have gotten that nomination? The best that people can say of her is that she is merely competent.
Then there's the banking bailout. On February 20 White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked if the Obama administration would seek to nationalize CitiGroup and Bank of America, he responded that the administration continues to "strongly believe that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go."But in the following months, the administration proceeded to put the banks in a headlock, forcing them to take aid that is worth more than double the banks' own capitalization, whether they want it or not, regulating their compensation, secretly pressuring executives to make certain acquisitions and not complain about it, either.Now most pundits seem to agree that CitiGroup and BofA are essentially nationalized in effect if not in name.
Do you see the pattern here? Moderate rhetoric, followed by extremely liberal action. Some people on the left see this as merely masterful politics -- after all, the winning strategy has always been to make your own position appear to be the middle of the road. But how much longer can you say one thing, and do another, before it stops being politics and starts being hypocrisy?