Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech in front of one neoclassical building (the Stock Exchange), facing another even more storied neoclassical bulding (Federal Hall). To paraphrase Kingsley Shacklebolt, say what you will about the President, but the man has style.
The speech, too, represented a well-delivered move towards the political center, couched in the rhetoric of moderation and populist imperatives. Answering the charge of “socialism” and extraordinary intervention in the private sector, he framed the more extreme actions of his first half-year as the inevitable product of its converse:
So I certainly did not run for President to bail out banks or intervene in the capital markets. But it is important to note that the very absence of common-sense regulations able to keep up with a fast-paced financial sector is what created the need for that extraordinary intervention. The lack of sensible rules of the road, so often opposed by those who claim to speak for the free market, led to a rescue far more intrusive than anything any of us, Democrat or Republican, progressive or conservative, would have proposed or predicted.
Rhetorical twists like this may restore the President to his former popularity, especially because the GOP’s more ridiculous moves mean that it has, in fact, vacated the political center. 66% of Americans frown on the GOP “response” to Obama’s health care address, and polling data roundly find Republicans more distrusted and considered more of an impediment to meaningful progress than Obama. Congressional Republicans may have Obama one move from stalemate, but if he keeps playing like this, one move is all he’ll need.