But by ending the year with a bipartisan-compromise tax deal, Obama showed he is capable of delivering the kind of change that was supposed to be the hallmark of his administration.
Indeed– I bet a lot of people watching Obama during the 2008 campaign were thinking, "I hope he doesn't mean it when he says he'll get rid of those tax breaks for the wealthy."
More Halperinian analysis:
To avoid seeing the economy stall again, the president needs to demonstrate that he has a strategy for centrist governance when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January. Political nihilists on the right and left may find the notion of swallowing something that their opponents want antithetical to their mind-set. But Obama's ability to compromise will prove crucial. Here's a simple rule for him: If a proposal is denounced by both Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin, it will probably find support in the center of the electorate.
Here's a simple test for that simple rule: What kinds of policy ideas would result from applying the Palin/Pelosi principle? Torturing puppies would apparently be a sure-fire electoral winner–since Pelosi and Palin would presumably both denounce this.
Of course, defining the "center" in this way is absurd; repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell is broadly popular, for instance, but it outrages Palinesque Republicans. So it's not centrist, according to the Halperin rule. Unfortunately, a lot of Beltway journalists see the world this way.