To Triangulate or Not to Triangulate?

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net.


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On Wednesday, Barack Obama acknowledged that the Republican blowout was “his fault” and that’s he’s “eager to hear good ideas wherever they come from, whoever proposes them.” Yet one has to wonder whether the most ideologically committed president in modern history is being sincere.  Will he move to the center and “triangulate” as Bill Clinton did after the Republican blowout of 1994?

Clinton’s ability to triangulate — to blend ideological differences between the two parties — produced a one-year budget surplus, historic welfare reform, and more importantly, a second term as president two years later.  Will Mr. Obama take that lesson to heart or will he “double down” on his far left agenda?  Several clues are available, if one is willing to look at them.  Let’s look:

Barack Obama came to office promising to “spread the wealth around.” He did just that with $787 billion of “stimulus” called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  He justified such massive deficit spending with a warning:  America was “on the brink of fiscal disaster.” He added a promise: millions of “shovel-ready” jobs would be created. His administration also predicted that unemployment would “peak at 8%.”

Despite the fact that unemployment climbed to nearly ten percent, and the poverty rate has climbed to 14.3%, the highest level since 1994, the president continues to defend his stimulus package:

“Even before the recession hit, middle-class incomes had been stagnant and the number of people living in poverty in America was unacceptably high, and today’s numbers make it clear that our work is just beginning. Our task now is to continue working together to improve our schools, build the skills of our workers and invest in our nation’s critical infrastructure.”

In an interview with NY Times correspondent Peter Baker, the president admitted that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”  Also, the president continues to assert that his administration “created or saved” 3.5 million jobs.

Mr. Obama, egged on by far-left economists like Paul Krugman, who insists we didn’t spend enough money stimulating the economy, will continue to pursue massive amounts of deficit spending, which he characterized as “an emergency situation” on Wednesday. In addition, he will likely veto any attempts by Republicans to cut government programs he considers “vital.”  He will do so despite the repeated historical failures of the Keynesian economic model, and his demagoguery regarding such choices will be tiresomely familiar.  Any Republican-led attempts to cut spending will be tantamount to “killing Grandma” or “tossing children into the street.”

Is a compromise possible?  In the midst of a severe recession, this administration and a Democratic Congress have run up trillion dollar-plus deficits and borrowed forty cents of every dollar to finance them.  Cutting both figures in half would be a “compromise.” But it would also be nothing more than a speed bump on the road to national insolvency.

When Congress passed ObamaCare, Democrats considered it their signature achievement.  Yet the secretive manner in which it was crafted, and the arrogance demonstrated by Democrats who passed it against the will of an American majority without a single Republican vote, might be the worst damage a political party has ever inflicted on itself.  On the eve of the  mid-term election, yet another Rasmussen Reports poll showed 58% of American wanted ObamaCare repealed.

Yet the president will almost certainly spend every last penny of political capital defending this plan. Why?  Because, as noted above, despite the fact that the Democrats and the president considered the economy on the brink of disaster, they spent eighteen months working almost exclusively on the heath care bill.

Recessions, even depressions, come and go. On the other hand, putting another one-sixth of our GNP under federal control is a paradigm shift towards the centralized, command-and-control economy progressives adore.

“Fixing our broken health care system” was the easiest vehicle by which Democrats could advance their statist agenda.  And as the election results revealed, Democrats were more than willing to sacrifice many members of their own party in the “short term,” for the “long-term” goal of expanding their big government agenda.

Speaking of political capital, the president has spent much of it on his vaunted “Muslim outreach program.”  The “returns” have been anemic by any fair standard.  Iran is as intransigent as ever, the “real war on terror” in Afghanistan still faces many challenges, and al Qaeda maintains a still-viable command network in Pakistan.  Yemen has the potential to turn into another failed state under terrorist control, and jihadist factions are making gains on the continent of Africa. Hezbollah and Hamas are stronger than ever, and Iraq is still trying to form a coalition government even as it makes overtures to Iran in the process, due to the commonality of large Shi’ite Muslim populations in both countries.

The common thread?  Perceived weakness on the part of the Obama administration. Some examples: the announcement of a date for withdrawing our fighting forces from Afghanistan, prematurely Mirandizing would-be Christmas Eve bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, criticizing Israel for its refusal to halt settlement expansion on the West Bank which undermined the peace process, supporting the building of a mosque near Ground Zero, the failure to name radical Islam as the enemy, and the intention to give the perpetrators of 9/11 civilian trials.

The president will continue to promote his Muslim outreach program, and Republicans will mostly go along because, other than the Mr. Obama’s rhetoric, much of what he is doing is similar to that which the Bush administration did to keep terrorists in check.  Also, Republicans know that if anything goes terribly awry, such as another domestic terror attack, or an exchange of hostilities between Iran and Israel, the president will be held almost exclusively accountable by the American public.If you own the Muslim outreach program, you own its failures as well.

With regard to immigration, it is no secret  Democrats would love to legalize the millions of Hispanics living in this country in violation of the law.  As a result, the Obama administration will continue suing against Arizona’s immigration statute, also the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.  Even if they lose, they’ll promote themselves as champions of Hispanics, because the president and Democrats believe that Hispanics are one of their primary constituencies and that “comprehensive immigration reform” must be pursued for the same reason they pursued national health care: the consolidation of power. The health care bill was about expanding the apparatus of power.  Comprehensive immigration reform is about consolidating a voter base to sustain that apparatus.

A fly in the proverbial ointment?  Senator-elect Marco Rubio in Florida, a young, charismatic Cuban American whose rising star produced a solid win in Florida.  It is not difficult to imagine a slate with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for president and Rubio as the vice-presidential candidate in 2012, especially if no real progress is made to cut government spending between now and then.  Both men are fiscal conservatives, and Marco Rubio may scare progressive Democrats more than any other politician in America because of his enormous potential to siphon Hispanic voters away from Democrats.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    It's not necessarily a matter of "drawing the proper conclusions" from the election. Obama may understand exactly what happened and why, and it may make not one iota of difference to him. I honestly don't believe he looks upon the majority of Americans who just voted his party out as stupid and/or uninformed. I think he looks at us in the same way he that implored Latinos to look at Republicans during the election: as ENEMIES.

  • tanstaafl

    Obama is similar to Mao and Stalin. He cares little for the effect of his policies on people and seems to be more interested in the ideological "purity" of his various schemes.

    • Jim C.

      Dingbat, Obama has governed to the RIGHT of Clinton. His solutions to the economy have been mainly monetarist, his economic advisors are basically Reaganites, his foreign policy is Bush's. Name one action that is Maoist or Stalinesque. ONE.

      • tanstaafl

        Obama's health care plan. It was pushed thru Congress despite popular opposition and more pressing problems. It is not intended to aid ordinary people, but to expand governmental control over a vital part of the American economy.

      • tanstaafl

        Both Stalin (White Sea – Baltic Canal) and Mao (Great Leap Forward) pushed overly ambitious programs solely for increasing the prestige of their respective countries and to promote Marxism. These programs were dangerous, lethal and resulted in the deaths of many "workers" and "comrades".

        I am sure you will point out that no one has died as a result of Obama's health care fiasco – but I am examining the President's attitudes. He is an ideologue and is removed from the consequences of his ambitions – just like Mao and Stalin.

  • Tom

    I think Mr Ahlert fails to appreciate that the destruction of the US – particularly the economic destruction of the US – is not a negative thing from the viewpoint of the Obamanistas. This article presupposes that they are interested in actual economic recovery, but the evidence is all to the contrary. The destruction is not thru ignorance – it is thru malice.

  • Wesley69

    We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of & America.” Five days later, Obama became the 44th President of the US. What did he mean by transformation? To most, it would be better than the Bush years, which they were told brought about the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. So they went back to their normal lives.

    He is an Ideologue. He is a true believer in his ideas. It is the people who misunderstand him. He did a poor job of communicating them to the masses. He learned NOTHING about the message sent by this election.

  • Wesley69

    He is an elitist who believes We The People, are stupid and need government to tell us how to live.

    He is a dangerous radical, a disciple of Saul Alinsky, who said, any means to justify an end. He will say and do anything to cast his "enemies" in a bad light. His Chicago-style leadership is slick so he will attempt to put one over on us.

    His connections to Leftist-Radical organizations which are funded by billionaire wacko-Leftist George Soros reveal who he is. The people, Mr. O. has surrounded himself with are definitely radical. But, some of these people hold extreme views about the environment, about the economy, about energy.

  • Wesley69

    He is no Bill Clinton. Clinton recognized the political realities of his situation and used it against the Republicans securing himself a second term, the only Democrat to do so since Truman and FDR. He knew about give and take. It is no wonder big changes took place in his administration. He was on the verge of Health Care Reform with Republican Newt Gingrich, when the sex scandals broke, a missed opportunity for this nation.

    The Republicans must check this narcissist in the House through legislation such as defunding programs, through investigations and subpoena power, through suits in federal Courts. They must not impeach him or make him appear as a victim. Censure would be a better weapon, or pursuit of the people around him if there is proof of criminal behavior.

    He will not play ball with the Republicans. It is not in his nature. Hopefully, this country can survive the last two years of this potential modern day Nero, but the thrill is gone!!!!!! At least for now.

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Thomas Jefferson

  • Jim C.

    What "gestapos," you unconsionable moron? I'm betting you can't name one.

    The term "low-info" voter was made especially for you.

  • Joan Hanson

    Great post, as usual. He’s promising the plebes bread and circuses which can only last a few more years. He keeps lecturing that “We cannot continue to do” the things he continues to do.

    One quibble with the post though, and while technical, I don’t think it’s minor….. We cannot “leave traditional Medicare as an option for seniors who don’t feel comfortable embracing the newer model.”

    J Hanson’s Last Blog The World’s Most Prestigious Universities