Mr. Obama’s (akwardly) conservative credentials

One factor that complicates President Barack Obama’s re-election bid in 2012 is the fact that he is, despite the hot-blooded rhetoric on the right, a Democrat who has embraced a laundry list of conservative ideas and policies.

Indeed, some of his signature acc0mplishments during his first four years are borrowed from the Republican playbook, a fact that confuses and disenchants many in his own movement’s base.

Here are the ten accomplishments that lie at the heart of Mr. Obama’s right of center street cred.

1.  Down-sizing government.

I know, I know.  You’ve heard over and over that Mr. Obama ballooned the deficit and spent trillions inflating the Federal bureaucracy.

In fact, a huge portion of the various “stimulus” programs launched over the last three years were aimed at propping up private sector businesses (through big public works projects).  Bales of cash also went to pay for enormous tax cuts or to bankroll unemployment payments for individuals.

That money didn’t go to expand the size of government.

On the contrary, the big untold story during Mr. Obama’s first term is that overall government employment in the US dropped dramatically — another 270,000 cuts in the last year alone. And he’s not done.

Mr. Obama has proposed massive cuts in the number of soldiers on the government payroll going forward, and his administration has also signaled that it will go along with huge declines in US Postal Service enrollment.

This “success” at fostering a leaner government would be a major re-election meme for a Republican.   But for a Democrat, it’s a mixed bag at best.  Many public sector unions are deeply unhappy with the Administration’s inability to help fund more government jobs at the Federal state and local level.

2.  Killing terrorists.

It’s not just that we got Osama bin Laden on this President’s watch.  Team Obama has pursued an incredibly aggressive campaign of aerial drone, special ops and ground force operations against a wide variety of terror cells, from Africa to the Middle East.

Last month, Navy Seals rescued hostages from a terror camp in Somalia, scoring another big symbolic victory.

But behind the scenes, US forces have been pounding targets, perhaps even participating in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

This is another of those successes that would be a major talking point for a Republican candidate, but Mr. Obama’s base is nervous about drone attacks, and the continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo.

3.  Deporting illegal aliens.

The conservative media has dined out for years on the notion that Mr. Obama coddles illegal aliens.  But the numbers tell a different story.  This administration has deported more than 400,000 undocumented workers a year, every year, since 2009.

That’s more than George W. Bush or any previous president managed to accomplish.  Indeed, this White House has presided over such a massive round-up of illegals that the deportation system is glutted to overcapacity.

Again, this is a “talking point” that Mr. Obama can only take up very delicately.  He hopes to win landslide levels of Hispanic support in his 2012 bid.

4.  Energy production

Again, I get it.  There have been some really high profile “liberal” moments for Mr. Obama.  He talks about renewable energy.  He put the Keystone XL oil pipeline project on hold.

But remember, this is a president who — in the weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster — greenlighted more offshore oil drilling.

Domestic oil production is at its highest level now that we’ve seen in 8 years and the country has emerged as a major natural gas producer — a fact Mr. Obama trumpeted in his state of the union address.

And for the first time since 1978 (more than thirty years!) the Federal government is set to approve two new nuclear reactors on Mr. Obama’s watch, both located in Georgia.

Again, the political fall-out of these positions is complex.  Conservatives say the President hasn’t gone nearly far enough, while some of Mr. Obama’s supporters in the environmental community are furious.

5.  Being an old fashioned American capitalist.

Mr. Obama used a lot of government-and-taxpayer money during the depths of the recession to prop up major American businesses, from Wall Street banks to Detroit automakers.  His critics called that socialism.

But three years later, the worst you can say about the bail-outs is that they look sort of like pro-big business corporate welfare.  (As opposed to, say, a deliberate campaign of nationalization.)

And there is a growing argument to be made that timely interventions by Mr. Obama (and by his predecessor George W. Bush) saved major American companies that have once again emerged as vibrant, private-sector job-creators.

What’s undeniable is that this administration’s economic team comes from the business end of the political spectrum, not the lefty-labor side.

Conservatives give him zero credit for this, and neither do Occupiers, who are incensed that a Democratic president is so closely aligned with Wall Street.

This is only a partial list, obviously.  Other big chunks of Mr. Obama’s early policy platform — cap-and-trade carbon programs, insurance mandates for healthcare coverage — came straight from the Republican Party’s playbook.

The question as the campaign heats up is how these positions play in voters’ minds.

Will Mr. Obama’s non-ideological approach play well with independents?  Will it be harder for a Republican moderate like Mitt Romney to carve out meaningful distinctions on the campaign trail?

And what about rank-and-file Democrats?  Will they come out in force to back a President whose first term included big agenda items that would make a Republican administration proud?

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49 Comments on “Mr. Obama’s (akwardly) conservative credentials”

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  1. Paul says:

    I think this is more likely to attract independent votes than to detract liberal supporters. Brain, is there really any good evidence to back up claims that his base is somehow going to sit this one out?

    Also since when is Killing Terrorists a conservative thing? People opposed to the drone thing are not opposed to killing terrorists they are upset with the collateral damage. No one had a problem (save a few kooks) that he took out bin laden.

  2. hermit thrush says:

    what paul said, every word of it.

  3. Pete Klein says:

    I love killing terrorists. The more the merrier.
    I never agree with everything any president does and no one should. I can’t imagine voting for any of the current Republican contenders and I do intend to vote.

  4. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    A very interesting point was made last Friday on Bill Maher’s HBO show about how Obama really should not run away from his record of the past 3.5 years as some suggest, but in fact, should be running toward it and highlighting exactly the points you laid out. The gist of this argument was that it’s all VERY appealing to the independents and moderates who will decide this election. Toss in the repeal of don’t ask don’t and a start at least toward universal health care, and his record is even more appealing to some.

    And sure, his base may be more than a little disappointed, but they’ll more than likely come out to support him given the alternative of the current crop of crazy’s on the other side.

  5. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    What Paul said, but not every word of it. I’m not opposed to killing terrorists per se, but I am a little uncomfortable with the precedent of killing American citizens without due process.

    Now let me go back and see what Paul had to say about abortion…

  6. Paul says:

    Also it has probably been tough to down-size the government when you need to administer the new consumer affairs agency, administer the new financial regulations that have been put in place, and administer the Affordable Care Act. It must have been necessary to get rid of some current government agencies to accomplish this. Brian do you know (other than the number of positions) what departments have been eliminated? Or is it fewer workers doing more work?

  7. Paul says:

    “Now let me go back and see what Paul had to say about abortion…”

    What? Have fun. BTW you have no idea what my opinion on killing terrorists is from this comment. I could just as easily be one of the kooks!

    I will tell you one thing I agree with this comment from knuck:

    “I am a little uncomfortable with the precedent of killing American citizens without due process.”

    More than a little.

  8. Ken says:

    Paul, hermit and Pete have you all ever heard the adage “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”? Have any of you ever participated in the killing of humans on a large scale? I do not mean by the paying of Federal taxes whilst you sit at home. Our current military paradigm reminds me of the methodology that is credited with ultimately bringing Rome to it’s knees. The use of Mercenaries to spare the Citizens the rigors of taking that which is desired. In our case the hiring of the poor to do our killing and dieing is nothing new, now we are arranging to do the killing at a far longer range than conventional artillery and bombing via UAVs.

  9. Pete Klein says:

    I am not uncomfortable with killing American citizens who are terrorist. As far as “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is no more relevant than saying those we fought in WW II were just fighting for their country.
    Have I killed anyone? No, not yet. But in combat situations, both sides find themselves in a kill or be killed situation. Yes, terrorist have the right of self defense but so do we. May I remind you, the Muslim terrorists started this thing on 9/11.
    We are not Rome. If we were, we would be bringing money home from our conquests, rather than funneling money into the countries to help them rebuild.
    And as to conventional weapons, that is so 20th Century. Why should we tie our hands behind our backs? Maybe we should go back to using only swords and muskets? Air power, maned or un-maned is the future. Why risk the lives of troops on the ground if you can kill the enemy without the risk?

  10. mervel says:

    The question Obama should ask and run on is: so how many of you out there in America want to re-invade Iraq? Because that is what these guys want to do.

    I don’t agree with the assessment on his domestic agenda, I think it has been an utter failure, a list of one band aid after another with no clear plan or strategy or even philosophy, the stimulus did not fund any great works or do much of anything except pay local and state governments and other supporters.

    However ending the war in Iraq is worth ALL of his domestic failures.

  11. Walker says:

    “May I remind you, the Muslim terrorists started this thing on 9/11.”

    Pete, if there was a nation called The Muslim Terrorists it would be one thing– we could declare war against them and go to town. But as it is, a “Muslim Terrorist” is anyone the government chooses to say is a Muslim Terrorist. This is really not a Good Thing. As you would quickly discover if they suddenly decided that you were a Muslim Terrorist. Just ask Sylvie Nelson, who our Homeland Security folks have repeatedly treated as if she was the male, 300-pound African American criminal of the same name. We need to be a government of law.

  12. JDM says:

    Wonder if he’ll backtrack on his position against Catholics?

  13. Paul says:

    “But as it is, a “Muslim Terrorist” is anyone the government chooses to say is a Muslim Terrorist. ”

    I don’t know. I don’t think it is that hard to figure out who the bad guys are (from our perspective Ken, I see where you are coming from), sure we make mistakes. We actually do a pretty good job at limiting this. The days of “shoot em all and let god sort em out” is over. But is was pretty effective in winning some of our past wars.

    I think that we had way to many stops in place in Iraq and Afghanistan. That limited our ability to be effective in those conflicts.

  14. Ken says:

    “The Muslim Terrorists started this Thing on 9/11”. As I recall all but one of them was a Saudi why did we not attack the Saudi’s? Oh foolish me, we sure as hell would not want to damage our relations with one of the biggest sources of black gold left on Earth. would we?

    “The days of “shoot em all and let god sort em out” is over.” Really? The US Gov. estimates 100-150,000 Iraqis killed by our “War on Terror” and the British ORB (Opinion Research Business) agency estimates 1.2 million. Lets take the middle road low ball and say 600,000 do you really believe every one of them was a terrorist? Around 5000 Americans have died in Iraq, a high estimate I know; however, if we evaluate 600/5 we arrive at virtually the same ratio as Viet Nam approximately 100 to 1 them to us. Afghanistan roughly the same probably a bit higher in our favor.

    “way to many stops in place in Iraq and Afghanistan…limited our ability to be effective”. Reminds me of the arguments I had about Viet Nam when I was active duty USAF. Permission to kill virtually anyone anywhere was not liberal enough? Perhaps 100 of them for one of us should have been what 500:1, 1000:1, 10,000:1……..? And regardless if those killed were 2 hours or 90 years old they are all terrorists just as they were all Viet Cong in Viet Nam, as long as they were Vietnamese!

  15. Peter Hahn says:

    this is the opposite of a back-handed complement – a fore-handed criticism? must be back-handed.

  16. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    For the record, I went back to the Planned Parenthood post and Paul’s opinion is very hard to pin down. Congratulations you wily devil!

  17. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Also for the record, “(kill) em all and let god sort em out” was a policy first promoted by one of the Popes when the Church wanted to exterminate French Protestants.

  18. oa says:

    Lay off Paul, Knuck. Paul’s conservative, but he’s not anti-science, he seems to weigh arguments, is uncomfortable with too much statism, and doesn’t sing from anybody’s choirbook. In other words, he’s an actual conservative. And he’s fun and challenging to argue with when there’s a disagreement. They really don’t make them like that any more. We need more Pauls.*
    *This is not an endorsement of Ron or Rand Paul.

  19. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Not trying to hijack the topic…I’ve been here telling everyone Obama isn’t a Liberal for about 3 1/2 years now.

    I don’t agree with a lot of what he has done, but if I had to run this country I would choose more conservative positions too. He is the President of ALL of the people, after all. Even if some of them think he’s a Muslim Socialist Kenyan Rev. Jeremiah Wright Manchurian Candidate.

  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mervel, re-invade Iraq? How last decade of you. We’ve moved on to getting our temples throbbing to invade Iran. Get with the program!

    Iran would be so much more convenient. We could just go back and forth from there to Afghanistan or Iraq. Why didn’t we just invade them right from the start?
    Doesn’t anyone in our government play Risk anymore?

  21. Paul says:

    Knuck, No problem. If you want my personal view on “abortion” I will give it to you and is just what it is, call it whatever you like. I don’t like it, I don’t think anyone does. Given how split we are on it I think that the law as it is now makes sense.

  22. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’m hip, oa. I thought being a wily devil was a compliment.

  23. Paul says:

    “a wily devil”

    I wish!

  24. Paul says:

    oa, thanks.

  25. Two Cents says:

    It’s the hardest position, but really, the fairest position to rule from is the middle no?
    Last i checked, moving from the liberal zone, to the conservstive zone is via the middle.

  26. JDM says:

    khl: “Not trying to hijack the topic…I’ve been here telling everyone Obama isn’t a Liberal for about 3 1/2 years now. ”

    Seems to me that Obama is very liberal, and would like to take the country extremely left. i.e. secular nation, social welfare society, crony capitalism, etc.

    The problem is, the nation is still a little right-of-center, and even Obama has to move right to keep his job.

  27. mervel says:

    JDM yes I think from the new media today Obama will end up compromising on the health care bill over that particular issue. There are very good compromise solutions that can work for everyone. I think its a fight he stumbled into and does not want.

    I think in the end the election may be more about a rejection of the traditional boring, old Republican ideas than an embrace of Obama. I mean we have heard a lot of this before, not that Obama’s ideas are any better, but it seems like the Republicans are not bringing anything new to the table. We all know that they won’t really cut the deficit or slow government spending, the only thing they really have is no tax increases, big deal.

  28. PNElba says:

    Seems to me that Obama is very liberal, and would like to take the country extremely left. i.e. secular nation, social welfare society, crony capitalism, etc.

    More rhetoric and opinon without supporting evidence. Secular nation? I guess a theocracy would be better – kind of like Iran. Crony capitalism? Evidence please (and please, not that tired old solyndra stuff). Social welfare society? Again, how about some evidence?

  29. Peter Hahn says:

    JDM – crony capitalism is on the right, not left, although secular nation and welfare society are on the left. Obama has governed from the center – so whatever he would really personally like to do we don’t really know, but what he has actually done is pretty centrist.

  30. Paul says:

    The old debate is really what it is all about. When it come to how to fund the things that government need to do, the left wants more taxes, the right wants more tax payers. We are really not all that far apart in principle. We all seem to agree that lowering taxes is what creates more tax payers. Otherwise both sides would not push the idea of tax incentives for all these different things. Cutting taxes on companies through tax credits like we see the left supporting for things like solar and wind power are just that – cutting corporate taxes. The same goes for tax incentives for other companies like oil and gas companies. The problem is that we mess so much with the markets that things can work.

  31. Walker says:

    “We all seem to agree that lowering taxes is what creates more tax payers.”

    Been there. Done that. Didn’t work.

    Otherwise, Bush II would have left us with employment surging.

  32. Paul says:

    Walker, why does even the most liberal members of the democratic party continue to support doing just that through the type of corporate tax breaks that I describe. I read this morning that many liberals are opposed to getting rid of a 30% tax incentive on new commercial solar installations.

    If they have been there, done that, and it doesn’t work, than why are they saying that it should continue?

  33. Walker says:

    “why are they saying that it should continue?”

    Because they’re getting campaign contributions from people who want those breaks.

    Our political system is corrupted by campaign contributions, and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better (if ever).

  34. mervel says:

    Also a range of other tax breaks are favored by both democrats and republicans as ways to help certain businesses or industries.

    I think they are all wrong though its ALL crony capitalism. But Paul is correct if liberals believe that tax breaks don’t work they should be in favor of getting rid of all tax incentives for green energy, because tax breaks don’t work.

  35. JDM says:

    Peter Hahn: “JDM – crony capitalism is on the right, not left”

    It is where it is found.

    GE, Warren Buffet, GM Unions, are all hand-picked winners by the Obama administration.

    Gisbon guitar – Obama’s diss list.

  36. JDM says:

    PNElba: Secular nation? I guess a theocracy would be better.

    No. The first amendment has it right.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

    Some people like to cut it off at the first comma. But religion is free to be practiced, not eliminated.

    Obama cannot tell Catholics they cannot practice their religion. No president can.

    Neither can any president say, “everyone in the US will be a Mormon”.

    Both are wrong under the first amendment.

  37. Paul says:

    Actually I think that the tax incentives do work in many cases (certainly not in some). It is just way too expensive for some of these companies to do business in this economy without it. You take them all away and you will see business activity plummet. That goes for new and existing companies.

  38. Paul says:

    There isn’t consensus on this blog but there is pretty good consensus among both small, medium, and large businesses that it is far to expensive to do business in this country. Lowering taxes via incentives does help that to some degree.

    My point was that when the rubber hits the road both parties support lowering corporate tax rates one way or another.

    But Walker I do agree that there is way to much political influence on how some of these things are done. A level playing field with lower tax rates that can help all businesses is ideal. Then let the market decide the winners and losers.

  39. Mervel says:

    One way to get rid of political influence of picking winners and losers would be to lower all taxes on all businesses, but that is right wing crazy talk.

  40. Mervel says:

    And it does not work, we should raise taxes on all business and they would hire more people and the economy would be better.

  41. CJ says:

    But JDM, does the Constitution allow a religious group to ignore laws they don’t like in the name of religious freedom when operating businesses in the public sphere?

    RE your earlier comment… I don’t think President Obama’s position was against Catholics, as most freely practice birth control. It was more in support of a Catholic public institution employee’s equal access to health care.

  42. PNElba says:

    JDM, I suggest you visit the Supreme Court ruling called Employment Division v. Smith. I know you won’t agree with it, but the majority decision was written by Justice Scalia.

    In Smith the Court upheld the state of Oregon’s refusal to give unemployment benefits to two Native Americans fired from their jobs at a rehab clinic after testing positive for mescaline, the main psychoactive compound in the peyote cactus, which they used in a religious ceremony.

    BTW, many liberals were outraged by the ruling.

    So, if my religious belief requires human sacrifice, can the government interfere with that belief?

  43. JDM says:

    PNElba: If the current Catholic controversy went to the Supreme Court, I have no idea if Division v. Smith would be cited.

    One difference is that Obama wants the Catholic church to begin doing what they are not currently doing, as opposed to being penalized for a current action (in Division v. Smith, it appears that the Native Americas were penalized for having taken a drug).

    That seems to be enough of a difference that this may be a different situation, entirely.

    Whether or not the two are legally the same is beyond me.

    As to your hypothetical about human sacrifice, that would be a current action that you taking, similar to Division v. Smith.

    If the government said you had to add a new behavior to your religion, i.e. begin human sacrifices, I think that you may find that an intrusion.

    If the government tells the Catholic church that one of the birth control methods that must be added is the I.U.D. or the “morning after pill”, then they are (in the opinion of some) telling the Catholic church to begin making human sacrifices.

  44. Mervel says:

    If people don’t like the Catholic stance on issues they should not work for Catholic institutions.

    I mean I don’t get it?

    How many people who are pro-life work for Planned Parenthood and make a fuss because the support abortion, I mean maybe their rights as pro-life supporters are being infringed?

    Of course though only the religious employer is attacked.

    This whole thing is bizarre and is a brazen attack on religious liberty and it is the reason that Obama backed down, and I will say GOOD for him! I don’t think he anticipated this and acted accordingly, which is a good thing in his favor.

  45. Walker says:

    But a Catholic hospital, like many Catholic universities, is really a secular institution. It is not unreasonable for a nurse, say, who is looking for a job and finds one at a Catholic hospital, should consider it to be just a health care job, not a Catholic health care job. After all, they don’t require the nurses to BE Catholic, right? And the fact that 98% of Catholic women have practiced birth control make the issue all the more bizarre.

    So sure, fine, Obama’s provision of a fig-leaf for the church makes sense. The church ought to accept it, and not try to push for anything more substantive.

  46. PNElba says:

    One difference is that Obama wants the Catholic church to begin doing what they are not currently doing….

    But several Catholic healthcare organization are prescribing contraceptives and have been doing for a long time. A majority of Catholics are in favor of Catholic healthcare prescribing contraceptives. If the Catholic church is so opposed to contraception, maybe they should work harder in convincing their congregations.

    It’s always confused me that theocrats want government to stay out of their business but those same theocrats can’t wait to get into government to tell us which types of relationships are ok and what a woman can do with her own body.

  47. Mervel says:

    The fact is these are Catholic institutions, they are part of the Church if person has a problem with that they should not work for the Catholic Church.

    Many Catholics have lied at some point in their life and also have probably had lust in their hearts and not loved God or their neighbor as themselves, and done many other sinful things; but that does not mean the Church should change its teaching on these spiritual teachings. As far as contraception goes yes many American Catholics do ignore this teaching, although there are many who practice quite successfully natural family planning. I don’t have a huge family and we have never used artificial birth control so you can’t just say hey families are smaller no one is practicing this. But remember the US Church is a small part of the Catholic Church and certainly does not control the Church, which is a good thing. The Catholic Faith is not a democracy where the most popular teachings gets the votes and the rest are jettisoned, thank God. But this is the business of Catholics not the government.

    I think this was a good compromise as good as we are going to get and I think Obama made a good faith effort to correct this.

  48. Walker says:

    OK, fair enough. One last comment though. Jesus’ teachings ignored or rewrote significant portions of Old Testament law; “an eye for an eye” became “love thy neighbor”. Now, the prohibition of birth control is based on the Old Testament prohibition not to spill one’s seed upon the ground. Given Christ’s concern for the poor, and given that in today’s world, large families generally operate at an economic disadvantage, is it likely that Jesus would condemn birth control in the modern world?

  49. mervel says:


    The teaching has mainly to do with being open to the children and family within a marriage that God gives you given that Jesus made a point of loving children I think He would be in favor of having some.

    What the Church is against is artificial birth control, they have a whole big series on Natural Family Planning, which is actually pretty accurate today and would be in favor of having the size of family that you can reasonably afford.

    As far as Jesus, I don’t think He would spend much time at all railing against birth control in the modern world. I think He would mainly be concerned with the health of our families.

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