Ben Buchwalter

Signs of a Malleable Obama
January 12, 2009, 10:11 am
Filed under: Barack Obama, Civil Rights, Economy | Tags: , , ,

This morning began with two major developments to the plans for Obama’s first legislative priority, the economic stimulus plan, and his inauguration. The incoming Obama administration endured criticism on both of these fronts as leftist Democrats thought Obama was working too hard to appease the right.

First, Politico reports that Obama is altering the economic stimulus plan to double the energy-tax incentives. Senator Kent Conrad, one of the most outspoken critics of the initial proposal, said that the discussions between congressional Democrats and the President-elect were “very, very healthy. They’re not defensive, not arguing back, they’re listening, they’re attempting to hear and they’re responding.”

Well that’s pretty nice to hear. Imagine George W. Bush altering his plan after they had been announced because of criticism from the right… or even more unimaginable… the left.

The Obama team has also announced that an openly gay Episcopalian bishop will deliver the invocation at another inaugural service. This is a clear “do over” in response to the criticism of the choice of mega-church founder Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the main inaugural event. Ezra Klein points out this ridiculous statement from an Obama source: “Robinson was in the plans before the complaints about Rick Warren. Many skeptics will read this as a direct reaction to the Warren criticism – but it’s just not so.

Call me a skeptic, but I also think this choice was related to the Warren controversy. But that’s a good thing. If anything, the willingness to reconsider his economic stimulus plan and the choice of Gene Robinson to give this invocation indicates that the President-elect at the very least hears rumblings from the left and is willing to make it right.

Says Klein:

This is, incidentally, why it’s useful for progressives to criticize the president. Politicians respond to incentives. To noise. To anger. Warren, on some level, was a response to the loud protestations of evangelicals who believed the Democratic Party had no place for them. It’s hard to see Robinson is anything but a response to progressive activists who sense that Obama was more willing to risk cross those who supported him than those who opposed him. Erase the anger from either side and it’s not worth Obama — or any president — taking the risk to placate them. But this is a step in the right direction. This is genuinely inclusive. If it was the plan all along, the Obama administration sure did a good job keeping the secret. And if it wasn’t, then equality activists have something to be proud of this morning. They changed the incentives.


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