A month or so ago Norm Ornstein and Newt Gingrich duked it out in op-ed pieces over whether or not Obama was a socialist. Later, Richard Cohen got into the act. They both try to make the case that Obama is a moderate not a socialist, and Newt is smoking dope if he thinks otherwise.
I've never been one to call Obama a 'socialist.' I don't see him commandeering the means of production or taking private property away from individuals to advance the interests of the state anytime soon. But I would say he has strong socialistic tendencies in that his world view is sympathetic to the concept of a strong central government. A government that injects itself into all manner of private sector activities on the theory that a benevolent state has both the obligation to provide for the welfare of its citizens as well as the power to regulate their behavior for the greater good of all. And from that perspective Obama may well be one of the most radical presidents in American history, as Newt suggests.
The central issue in this debate is the concept of individual responsibility and control over one's journey through life versus an intrusive government that not only erodes individual control but also allows some segments of society to avoid responsibility for their own actions. In that context, it's hard to make a case that policies such as HCR, cap and trade, or taking over GM for example are anything other than massive intrusions by government that replace the freedom of individual and market choices with the 'enlightened' fiats imposed by elitist government functionaries.
Ornstein and Cohen also argue that HCR, for example, did not include a 'radical' public option or single payer system and therefore constitutes a moderate approach to health care reform. What a bunch of baloney. In actuality, it was the political realities in the Senate (and not the President's inclination) that forced Obama closer to the center. Furthermore, while the recently passed HCR cannot be fairly characterized as 'socialized medicine' it is entirely fair to point out that the left envisions this HCR as just the first step down a longer road which can (will?) ultimately lead to socialized medicine.
So I have no problem with the rhetoric from the right that casts HCR as socialized medicine or Obama as a radical or even a 'secular socialist' as Newt calls him. Because the core issue is not where Obama has moved the country today, but the implications for the future of where the country would be if the President's vision is not challenged right now. This whole deal is based on Obama's desire to be the transformative figure for the left that Reagan was for the right. And from that perspective, the stakes for the right are huge.
So for the purpose of concise talking points (which so many on the left despise -- unless they're the ones using them) that can communicate the essence of the stakes involved in terms that can resonate as well as energize the opposition, then I say to Newt and Rush and Liz et. al. have at it. Stir the pot, motivate the base, plant the seed of doubt in the minds of the fencesitters. Do what you have to do to make everyone think twice about the implications for the future of what Obama is doing today.
If leftist apologists like Ornstein and Cohen don't like it, well that's just too bad. Because as Newt says: "It is only from the perspective of the cultural elite that the left-wing governing of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team could be seen as moderate. "Yup, he's got that exactly right.