[update below] [2nd update below]
Paul Krugman links to an article on his blog by Bruce Bartlett for those who didn’t see it, so I’m linking in turn to Krugman for those who didn’t see him. Bartlett writes about “Obama’s effective conservatism.” I originally thought of Obama as a milquetoast liberal, though with possible progressive impulses. Now I think he’s a squishy centrist. But Bartlett, who is a moderate Republican (a dying breed), does in principle know how to recognize one of his own…
UPDATE: A friend, who often has good insights into these matters, wrote the following in response to the post: “Obama is not that enigmatic. Obama is a center-left Democrat on the socio-economic role of state issues and a liberal on social issues. He is a kind of J.S. Mill rationalist who, at times, foolishly believes that his opponents mean [well] and can transcend their deep ideological convictions. That view is, in part, drive by his narcissistic conception of his own transcendence. Krugman does not take into account the degree of opposition Obama has to deal with!”
2nd UPDATE: On his NYT blog Krugman links to another piece by Bruce Bartlett, this one on Obama’s weak negotiating style. Bartlett chalks this up to Obama’s youth and inexperience, and notably to the fact that he did not come of age during a period when American presidents had to deal with two redoubtably tough negotiators, the Soviet Union and Big Labor. Bartlett observes that
One reason why Ronald Reagan was such a successful president is that he had been president of the Screen Actors Guild, the labor union for movie actors. Not only did this mean that he was the primary negotiator on labor contracts with the studios, but he was also deeply involved in opposing a serious effort by communists to infiltrate Hollywood and take control of its unions after the war.
Interesting perspective and worth reading.