January 18, 2011

Obama’s Cynical Move to the Center

Obama's shift is more a political play than a change of heart

The president is sounding the right notes. His op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal (its placement is certainly no accident) is a refreshing olive branch to a community he seems to have taken special pains to alienate. It’s further evidence he’s heeded the election results and (for the time being) continues his march to the middle.

“For two centuries, America's free market has not only been the source of dazzling ideas and path-breaking products, it has also been the greatest force for prosperity the world has ever known,” he begins.

He’s signed an executive order calling for a review of regulation at the federal level, and to eliminate those regulations deemed “stifling to economic growth.” The examples he cites are both heartening (the federal overreach in fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks) and feckless (the EPA’s treatment of saccharine as a dangerous chemical).

He’s taking a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook and “triangulating” in a political pivot meant to appear more moderate without alienating his base. I emphasize the “appear” because who decides which regulations are “needlessly stifling” is really the crux of the debate. And how much will said streamlining really matter if—for instance—new emission and pollution enforcement is handed to the EPA in a nod to cap and trade that simply bypasses the legislative branch? Or the Interior Department’s Western land grab via Secretarial Order; an end-run around, once again, the legislative branch. The examples by no mean stop there.

He’s signed an executive order to streamline federal regulation, all the while increasing regulation’s role as a means of bypassing the newly installed Congress, which he then masks with grand pronouncements like the one he made today. Cynical doesn’t begin to describe it.

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