Obama: ‘Starkly Liberal’ or Centrist?

A Washington Post story today (1/24/13) leads with this:

Barack Obama (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Obama at the Inauguration (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The success of President Obama’s starkly liberal second-term agenda will rest largely on the shoulders of Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid, who has been a rock-solid political ally and a valued legislative tactician for Obama during his first term.

That characterization of Obama’s agenda–shared by many in corporate media (FAIR Media Advisory, 1/23/13)–seems better suited for an op-ed than a news article, especially since reporter Paul Kane has little to back up his argument. The piece is mostly about Obama’s gun proposals, which Kane reports will constitute three things: background checks for buyers, limits on the size of gun clips and an assault weapons ban.

Those ideas are actually solidly popular with the majority of the public. According to the most recent Washington Post poll–which Kane alludes to in passing–86 percent of Americans support background checks, 55 percent support limits on high-capacity ammunition clips and 58 percent support an assault weapons ban (a law that was in effect from 1994-2004, which was perhaps a time for “starkly liberal” gun restrictions).

Interestingly, a more convincing case about Obama’s second term agenda–at least the one advertised in his inaugural address–came from the op-ed page of the Post (1/24/13), the place where such opinions are supposed to appear. Democratic public relations strategist Kenneth Baer writes:

If you missed Barack Obama’s inaugural address on Monday, you might have thought that it was George McGovern who took the oath of office.

He goes on:

The speech sounded so robustly liberal not because the president or his party has changed but because the Republican Party has, moving far outside the norms of American political thought.

Defending the idea of a social safety net to guard against the vagaries of life is hardly radical.

To be clear, Baer’s perspective is that the Clinton/Third Way shift to the right by the Democratic party was a good thing–and he sees Obama as being basically in line with this “New Democrat” approach. One can certainly disagree with that, but it’s a far more convincing assessment of Obama’s politics than the one offered by the supposedly straight news account in the same paper.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.