Liberals to Obama: What’s up with your admin picks, policy shifts?

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, staunch liberals were showing signs of frustration over their belief that Obama hadn’t thrown “any bones to the progressive base” with his cabinet choices and admin staffers. I disagreed then and still do now over the assertion, but that may be because I’m a conservative who would have prefered picks that would be more in line with conservative viewpoints than liberals ones. That being said, with a few exceptions, I’m happy to admit that Obama hasn’t taken his administration to the far far left – not yet anyway. Which still has some on the left in quite a lather (via Memeo):

Liberals are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices.

Obama has reversed pledges to immediately repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and take on Big Oil. He’s hedged his call for a quick drawdown in Iraq. And he’s stocking his White House with anything but stalwarts of the left.

Now some are shedding a reluctance to puncture the liberal euphoria at being rid of President George W. Bush to say, in effect, that the new boss looks like the old boss.

“He has confirmed what our suspicions were by surrounding himself with a centrist to right cabinet. But we do hope that before it’s all over we can get at least one authentic progressive appointment” said Tim Carpenter, national director of the Progressive Democrats of America.

OpenLeft blogger Chris Bowers went so far as to issue this plaintive plea: “Isn’t there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration?”

Even supporters make clear they’re on the lookout for backsliding. “There’s a concern that he keep his basic promises and people are going to watch him” said Roger Hickey, a co-founder of Campaign for America’s Future.

Obama insists he hasn’t abandoned the goals that made him feel to some like a liberal savior. But the left’s bill of particulars against Obama is long, and growing.

Obama drew rousing applause at campaign events when he vowed to tax the windfall profits of oil companies. As president-elect, Obama says he won’t enact the tax.

Obama’s pledge to repeal the Bush tax cuts and redistribute that money to the middle class made him a hero among Democrats who said the cuts favored the wealthy. But now he’s struck a more cautious stance on rolling back tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year, signaling he’ll merely let them expire as scheduled at the end of 2010.

Obama’s post-election rhetoric on Iraq and choices for national security team have some liberal Democrats even more perplexed. As a candidate, Obama defined and separated himself from his challengers by highlighting his opposition to the war in Iraq from the start. He promised to begin to end the war on his first day in office.

Now Obama’s says that on his first day in office he will begin to “design a plan for a responsible drawdown” as he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Obama has also filled his national security positions with supporters of the Iraq war: Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize force in Iraq, as his secretary of state; and President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, continuing in the same role.

The central premise of the left’s criticism is direct – don’t bite the hand that feeds, Mr. President-elect. The Internet that helped him so much during the election is lighting up with irritation and critiques.

Democrat strategist Steve Hildebrand, who was also Obama’s National Deputy Campaign Manager, writes today at the HuffPo that, essentially, Obama was elected as president of all people, not just the left:

I could go on and on. The point I’m making here is that our new president, the Congress and all Americans must come together to solve these problems. This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren’t progressive enough. Having worked with former Senator Obama for the last two years, I can tell you, that isn’t the way he thinks and it’s not likely the way he will lead. The problems I mentioned above and the many I didn’t, suggest that our president surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the president of all the people – not just those on the left.

As a liberal member of our Party, I hope and expect our new president to address those issues that will benefit the vast majority of Americans first and foremost. That’s his job. Over time, there will be many, many issues that come before him. But first let’s get our economy moving, bring our troops home safely, fix health care, end climate change and restore our place in the world. What a great president Barack Obama will be if he can work with Congress and the American people to make great strides in these very difficult times.

Make no mistake about it: Obama will govern long term as a liberal on certain pet issues like healthcare, unions/labor, abortion, global warming, and government handouts, but it seems like for the time being, at least, there are certain issues where he’s decided a more centrist approach is the way to tackle the issue. Obama flipped around on a lot of issues over the course of his campaign like NAFTA and FISA, for example which he was tepidly criticized by the left for doing. But any president (or in this case, president-elect) would probably tell you that it’s easy enough to walk the fence on an issue when you’re a candidate trying to win over different voters in different states; it’s quite another thing once you’ve been elected and are privy to more information than you were as a candidate and then nominee. I’m reluctant to think that at this point Obama is shifting his views as part of an overall strategizing effort for the next election. It’s too early for that. My sense is that Obama’s decided to be pragmatic on certain issues – like tax cuts and perhaps even missile defense – because he got a reality check in the weeks after he was elected president, not only from some of his advisors, cabinet picks, and admin staff, but from President Bush himself.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? Obama’s apparently decided that at least for the short term, many of the liberal policies he wanted to push for and enact during his first year aren’t a good idea considering the shape the economy is in now, and considering where we are in the war on terror (translation: winning). What remains to be seen is if he’ll hold on to his domestic policy views once the economy starts pulling out of the recession – which some analysts and economists are predicting could go into early 2010. It was primarily liberal policies that greatly enabled us getting into this economic mess in the first place. That the same types of conservative policies (tax cuts for “the rich,” for example) Obama criticized during the primaries and general election are policies he will at least temporarily keep in place should not be lost on anyone. That he will (I predict) likely abandon them in a couple of years and embark on a course that will be destined to sink our economy again under someone else’s administration shouldn’t be lost on anyone, either. Not to mention where his foreign policy ideas may take us …

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