Katrina Vanden Heuvel responds to David Shuster's questions about those on the left with concerns about Barack Obama's cabinet appointments. Vanden Heuvel points out that leaders in the past like FDR were centrists who were moved to govern as progressives because the times demanded it and feels the same may end up being true of Obama. When asked to respond to Steve Hildebrand's remarks I think she is right on the mark with this response:
Well I think tone is half of life and there was a tone in there like, don't speak up and what this country is about and what Obama's campaign and the moment, the movement around his campaign was about respect and power and include. That was his mantra. And it was bringing people and their voices into a system. This is a former community organizer. He is the first community organizer in the White House and he talked about change from below, fighting for change from below.
Hildebrand isn't on the right page. He didn't need to say that. And you know the left's progressives, I think, you know we need to get beyond the labels. As I, centrism today David has been redefined. Centrism today is about improving the conditions of people's lives through massive government intervention and stimulus and showing that government can do that.
She's correct and the center has shifted to the left despite the best attempts by the media to continually paint the United States as a center-right nation. I also agree that Hildebrand is not on the right page, even though he is correct that it is not fair to criticize Obama too harshly before he's had a day in office. But I'll also take a page from David Sirota on this one:
First thing's first: I absolutely agree with Hildebrand that you can't draw concrete conclusions about Obama based only on his personnel decisions -- and I've written that repeatedly (and I've also said that most of Obama's policy declarations have been pretty progressive). However, Hildebrand implying that those personnel decisions really don't matter at all is straight up silly. It supposes that all the enormous egos that populate a White House are just mindless functionaries, and that even though those egos are heading major federal departments or are key advisers, they have no hand in making policy and/or their advice to a president makes absolutely no impact. Please -- let's get real.
But far more important than that is Hildebrand firing up the whaaaaaaaambulance to whine and cry and moan about "the left." Really, what is with top Democrats explicitly attacking "the left wing of the Democratic Party" in Fox News-style talking points? Why is every substantive, non-partisan, non-ideological question of pragmatism from progressives almost automatically portrayed as some sort of super-Trotsky-ite, ideological and wholly inappropriate demand for Obama to be a president "just for those on the left?" Can anyone even ask a non-ideological question of Obama without being attacked as some sort of raving left-wing lunatic?
Are such questions really the inappropriate queries of a bunch of radical revolutionaries from "the left?" Or are the real fringe radicals -- the real ideologues -- those who say that we should all STFU and bow down to the Dear Leader? I think the latter, not the former -- and I think Democrats (and especially the Obama team) who rightly protested Republican efforts to tar and feather Obama as a "socialist" should know better than to echo such silly, fact-free talking points.