Jonah Goldberg: Hail to the panderer in chief
"What works" is a cruel standard for the author of Obamacare, which may be one reason the White House has taken to scrubbing the sobriquet from its website and the President's speeches in favor of the law's official name, the Affordable Care Act.
At a strategy meeting, the issue of climate change came up. The book quotes an exasperated Obama declaring: "Maybe I should just come out and say what I really feel about this. Maybe I should just go out and say what I think about everything." At a follow-up meeting, he brought a long list of priorities he wanted to be more bold on, from poverty to gay marriage to alternative energy.
Of course, when Obama says he's a pragmatist, he doesn't mean the sort of pragmatism that Halperin and Heilemann are referring to: a willingness to pander cravenly to the voters while hiding his core convictions. The President means to suggest that his policies are simply the only right and smart way to achieve good things. That's why he's so fond of saying — and so hypocritical for saying it — that his opponents are ideologues who can't "put politics aside" to do what's right.
As the New Republic's Franklin Foer notes, this fiction was always partly intended to sell voters on the idea that progressive social planners could be trusted with unprecedented state power. "It was more comforting for people to feel as if disinterested technicians, not party hacks, were going to be running the show."
Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. You can write to him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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