Former House Speaker (and Fox News contributor) Newt Gingrich went to New Orleans the other day and, in a speech to Republican activists and leaders called President Barack Obama was “the most radical president in U.S. history.”
Rather than embrace this characterization of the man whose presidential platform consisted of one word – “change” – the president’s allies in the media went on the attack, portraying the word as incendiary (which it hardly is) and Gingrich as a bomb-thrower.
You might think that a president who comes out of America’s leftist traditions and organizations, who successfully maneuvered a national health care bill through Congress, who has called for the global elimination of nuclear weapons and has an agenda to dramatically expand both the size and scope of the federal government, would be pleased to be seen as such. Based on the reaction to Gingrich’s observation, this is not the case.
It may have to do with the politics of deception, the art of seeming to be what you are not.
Remember that, in the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama campaigned as something of a centrist – which is something of a necessity in a center-right country like the United States. More than that, his campaign allowed him to be portrayed as a “post-partisan,” which we now understand means he wants to rule the nation without input from the Republicans rather than behave in a strictly bipartisan way.
This, of course, could have disastrous consequences for Obama in the 2012 elections – as it already promises to curtail severely the Democratic majorities in Congress. Having campaigned as a centrist he must govern as one, or at least have the American people believe that is what he is doing.
Gingrich, while not alone in calling Obama out on the point is, perhaps, the most visible political figure to do so. Which makes him the most dangerous; at least as far as Obama’s path forward to a second term is concerned. By calling things as they are, not as the White House would have people see them, he is offering an alternative narrative about what is really going on in America.
For example, the White House wants people to believe that the recent dip in the national unemployment rate is a vindication of Obama’s economic policies. Rather, he suggests, people would do well to remember that the White House’s own projections said that, if approved, the stimulus package would keep the unemployment rate from rising above 8 percent and that they do not have a convincing explanation for why they were so far off the mark.
As Gingrich himself pointed out Tuesday during a meeting with bloggers sponsored jointly by Americans for Tax Reform and The American Spectator magazine, the current fight should not be about extending unemployment benefits; it should be about creating an economy where people who want jobs can find them.
It is deceptive to argue that Obama is a centrist. Rather, as Gingrich suggests, he sits atop a secular, socialist machine that seeks to enlarge the power of the American government in order to remake American society and reshape its values. To deny this is to deny the American people the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about the country’s future and to make informed choices come the next election.
Peter Roff is contributing editor, U.S. New & World Report, senior fellow Institute for Liberty and Let Freedom. He is a former senior political writer for United Press International.
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