Conservatives frequently make unfavorable comparisons between Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, but it’s a rarer occurrence to see leftists do the same. So when a lefty zealot like Eric Alterman does precisely that in his latest Daily Beast article, it’s bound to raise eyebrows, though it shouldn’t—where The One reminds right-wingers of Carter through his international and economic ineptness, Alterman sees Obama aping some very different traits from his predecessor:
The gregarious Massachusetts pol, House Speaker Tip O’Neil, could hardly have been more eager to work with a Democratic president after eight years of Nixon and Ford. But when they first met, and O’Neil attempted to advise Carter about which members of Congress might need some special pleading, or even the assorted political favor or two with regard to certain issues, to O’Neil’s open-jawed amazement, Carter replied, “No, I’ll describe the problem in a rational way to the American people. I’m sure they’ll realize I’m right.” The red-nosed Irishman later said he “could have slugged” Carter over this lethal combination of arrogance and naivety, but it would soon become Carter’s calling card.
Alterman doesn’t know just how right he is. The Left can never entertain the possibility that they might be wrong on questions of fundamental principle. Progressive ideology holds itself to be the culmination of man’s intellectual and moral development thus far, enlightenment from which there could be no fundamentally different deviation. John F. Kennedy said the days of “grand warfare of rival ideologies” were behind us, replaced with “more basic discussion” of “technical questions.” If someone rejects the key tenets of the progressive agenda, it must be because he either doesn’t yet understand it properly, or is blinded by his personal biases or interests. Someone simply can’t be enlightened and well-informed, and still reject leftist policies.
Both men rule without regard to the concerns of the base of their party. Both held themselves to be above politics when it came to making tough decisions. Both were possessed with superhuman self-confidence when it came to their own political judgment mixed with contempt for what they understood to be the petty concerns of pundits and party leaders. And worst of all, one fears, neither one appeared willing to change course no matter how many storm clouds loomed on the horizon […]
[A]s Ezra Klein points out,, Obama’s deficit reduction plan, while not quite as brutal as the Republican Ryan plan, is even more conservative than the Simpson-Bowles plan, which was itself deeply conservative. He calls for raising less money in new taxes and far smaller cuts in the defense budget, chasing the Republicans into territory that is well to the right of anything even Ronald Reagan dared propose before his 1980 shellacking of Jimmy Carter.
It’s true that some conservatives have praise for Simpson-Bowles, but Brian Riedl at the Heritage Foundation explains that the plan is hardly an ideal center-right reference point thanks to its emphasis on raising taxes (including an automatic “tax hike trigger”), slashing defense spending, leaving entitlements relatively unscathed, and measuring “all tax and spending changes against a baseline that already assumes nearly $2 trillion in tax increases from letting parts of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire and from no longer renewing many other annual tax cuts.”
And I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how Obama’s unserious, ineffective stab at the budget manages to out-Reagan Reagan, inasmuch as the New York Times piece he links is all about the outcome of the 1980 election, and says very little about the issues either candidate ran on.
So once again, we see that Obama’s real problem is that he’s not far left enough; in fact, he’s further to the right than that infamous centrist Ronald Reagan! The question, then, is how much of this argument is a sincere manifestation of progressivism’s aforementioned ideological blinders, and how much is a calculated propaganda effort to make the president seem more reasonable than his opponents?