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Obama is Shifting Right

Slowly but steadily.

9:58 AM, Jan 26, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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President Obama has proposed a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending. Following Bill Kristol's advice, John McCain backs the freeze. Meanwhile, the president has endorsed a bipartisan commission to examine spending and entitlements. And despite reports that the Democrats might use the reconciliation maneuver to pass a health care bill the public dislikes and does not want, after an election in which the victor campaigned explicitly against the Obama agenda, Obamacare in its current incarnation is dead or close to it. After a year hiatus, American politics is returning to the center.

Obama is Shifting Right

This ought to caution Republicans against becoming overconfident as they look to the midterm elections. Public opinion research shows the electorate is overwhelmingly concerned with the economy, terrorism, and out of control spending. To the extent that Obama has good ideas on these topics, Republicans should be ready to support him, as they did when they backed the Afghanistan surge. While the public clearly has had enough of one-party liberal rule, it also wants to see bipartisan efforts to address serious issues.

A spending freeze is a good place to find common ground. Like the Afghanistan surge, it separates Obama from the left. Bipartisan support shows the GOP wants to correct the mistakes of the past and return to principles of fiscal responsibility. A freeze is also the best policy at a time when the country is awash in a sea of red ink. Remember: Obama already increased non-defense discretionary spending in his 2010 budget. The liberal appetite for social spending is bottomless. They are like Homer Simpson when he goes to the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.

For every good idea Obama has, of course, he will have some bad ones, too. And here Scott Brown shows Republicans the way of opposition. Brown both de-personalized and nationalized the Massachusetts special election. He did not attack Obama personally; indeed, he often said how much he admired the president. Brown attacked the Obama agenda--specifically, Obamacare, lawyers for terrorists, and the tax hikes headed our way. Obamacare may have been halted. But, as long as Eric Holder is attorney general, the administration will continue to be on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to the treatment of enemy combatants. Taxes? They are set to rise. A major battle looms this year.

In other words, there remains plenty to argue about, as always. Supporting Obama on spending and the war won't hurt Republicans. Indeed, it might bolster the party's credibility--something which it has been sorely lacking for the last half-dozen years.

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