Is ‘Triangulation’ Just Another Word for the Politics of the Possible?

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WASHINGTON — At a dinner for Iowa Democrats back in November 2007, Senator Barack Obama lobbed a less than subtle insult in the direction of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, seated just a few feet away. “Triangulating and poll-driven positions because we’re worried about what Mitt or Rudy might say about us,” Mr. Obama said, referring to two of their Republican rivals, “just won’t do.”

Now the tax deal approved by the House late Thursday has given rise to an emotional debate among Democrats in Washington and online. Is President Obama himself a triangulator? Has he become the kind of compromiser he once disdained?

Perhaps the better question might be: So what if he has?

The term “triangulation,” politically speaking, dates back to the days after President Bill Clinton lost control of Congress in 1994. Mr. Clinton sought the advice of the pollster Dick Morris, who used the term (primarily with the news media) to describe the way in which he thought Mr. Clinton might claw his way back into the public’s esteem....

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