The Moderometer: Charting Obama’s Zig-Zag ... July 28 to August 18

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Mr. Troy is Professor of History at McGill University in Montreal and a Visiting Scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC. His latest book is: Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents (Basic Books).

 This is part of an ongoing project to track the ideological shifts of the Obama administration. Click here to read the initial installment.

August 18, 2009: WHITE HOUSE SUGGESTS DEMOCRATS MAY GO IT ALONE ON HEALTH CARE: In what could be a trial balloon testing the possibility of deviating dramatically from President Obama’s search for a bipartisan health care bill, leading Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill suggested they may attempt to pass health care reform without Republican assistance. “The Republican leadership, has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day,” White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel declared. (Domestic – Left)

August 15, 2008: RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT CENTRALITY OF “PUBLIC OPTION” TO HEALTH REFORM: Liberals feared that President Obama was reneging on his commitment to create a public national health insurance option, available to those who cannot afford private insurance or do not wish to patronize private insurance companies. In an ambiguous statement that could have been a tactical assessment or a vision statement, Obama said, “the public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform.” The Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius fed liberal concerns by saying the public option is not “essential” to a health care plan. Amid the ensuing outcry, by Tuesday, August 18, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs felt compelled to insist: “The preference is the public option.” (Domestic – Center/Right)

August 5, 2009: DESPITE JOURNALISTS’ RELEASE, MAINTAINS LINE ON NORTH KOREA: A day after former President Bill Clinton secured the release of two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea, President Obama issues a statement that shows no softening in the administration’s position towards the country. Obama thanked both Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, but described their efforts as simply a “humanitarian mission.” (Foreign—Center)

July 30: SOOTHES RACIAL TENSIONS OVER BEERS: After criticizing the actions of the Cambridge Police in Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s widely publicized arrest, President Obama hosts a “beer summit” with Vice President Joe Biden, arresting officer James Crowley, and Gates at the White House. “I don’t think anybody but Barack Obama would have thought about bringing us together,” Gates told reporters. (Domestic—Center)

July 28: EASES SANCTIONS ON SYRIA: The Obama administration again reaches out to Syria by easing the sanctions against the country. Though the Syria Accountability Act prohibits all American exports to Syria other than food and medicine, Middle East envoy George J. Mitchell told the Syrian president that the administration would make exceptions for goods such as civil aviation technology. Republicans criticized the move, which follows the president’s decision in June to appoint an ambassador to the country for the first time in four years. (Foreign—Left)

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