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Obama the Grand Master

Posted on Saturday, 13th August 2011 @ 03:56 AM by Text Size A | A | A

 

Obama as Chess Master: ‘Think of Him as Bobby
Fischer’

By James
Fallows

bobby-fischer.jpgI’ve published a
series of harsh
assessments
of the savvy and game plan that the Obama
Administration brought to the debt-ceiling fight. For a change of tone,
here is a reader’s argument today that such judgments are both hasty and
unfair. In fact, by this view, we’re watching a master vision unfold.

Worth
considering in full. Some alternative views soon — I’ll save them for
later because this is long enough as is and deserves its own space. The
reader writes:

>>It’s pretty clear to me that Obama is
the chessmaster. Stop looking at this politically – let’s look at
policy. Obama has been a master of accomplishing things, even with the
Tea Party Terrorists hell bent on shutting down the government and
ruining the full faith and credit of the United States.

Look at
this from liberal,conservative, and moderate perspectives.

Liberals:
Obama will end two wars, ended DADT, created the CFPA, got $20b from BP
in the face of strong opposition, saved Detroit, signed New START, and
enacted universal healthcare – the defining goal of the liberal
movement.

For conservatives: he finished the job successfully in
two wars, sustainably entered Libya while ensuring our allies took the
heavy burden, okayed two risky operations -one that killed pirates and
the other killing Osama – and just did more to stabilize long term
deficits than anyone since Ike.

And for moderates: he
spearheaded the most successful education initiative since WWII with
Race-to-the-Top, ended too big to fail with Dodd-Frank, boosted exports
with free-trade agreements, advocated and done more for infrastructure
than anybody since Ike, increased technological funding, including for
NASA (while it may be an ill-defined future, it’s at least sustainable
now), and gave birth to the space industry – in short, strengthened the
long term economic outlook for this country. His only failure is a
biggie – the stimulus. It was too small, and gave to businesses who
invested in capital improvements rather than employment. And frankly, it
failed.

Let’s also look at the policy critiques he faces from
the left – no public option, no carbon tax or anything on climate
change, no immigration reform, didn’t close Guantanomo, and the Bush tax
cuts. He sacrificed the public option to pass universal health care as a
whole. Think of him as Bobby Fischer – he sacrificed the queen to win
the greatest game.

As far as the carbon tax and immigration, he
tried and failed. It happens sometimes – but there really wasn’t much
room for him to move any further to the left after Obamacare. And let’s
face it, if he had moved any further to the right, liberals would have
been pissed. He tried like the Dickens on Guantanomo, but by that time
the Tea Party made it seem crazy to build a mosque in NY (cause God
forbid the 1st Amendment be observed), and the liberal movement didn’t
exactly come out to support him on that. And then finally, the Bush tax
cuts – another major piece sacrificed. And in return, he got New START,
strengthened the FDA, gave health insurance to 9/11 responders, signed
an important Civil Rights legislation for black farmers, and ended DADT.

Granted,
there are more critiques from the conservative side of the house, and
less to be happy about. But after the latest economic crisis that
conservatives have created, I have a hard time taking them seriously.
And for those who say “then why should Obama have caved?” Did he really
cave? He cut the long term deficit (which he’s wanted to do since
sitting in the Senate), and has now put Republicans in a position where
they need to come to the table or see their core values demolished. It’s
either tax cuts or the end of the world’s greatest military. Does
anybody really think Republicans won’t deal? Even if they don’t, it’s a
pretty easy for Obama to make the case that the Republicans have been
taken over by “Tea Party Terrorists,” who he tried to negotiate with in
good faith. From a political and a policy standpoint, he’s pushed the
Republicans so far to the right that they are called terrorists without
humor by the national media.

How has he pushed them to the
right? By taking the center.

Which is
why there is a ton that moderates can be proud of him for. By
putting this nation’s economy on a stronger footing for the long term
than it has been since LBJ, he’s taken full control of the center – and
is there anything more important in a chess game? He’s made tough
decisions on popular programs, faced backlash, but all in all, invested
in our long term future.

Even if politically he’s toast because of playing the long-game
economically to the detriment of the short-game, his policies will not
die overnight. The republican party may take back the White House, and
even gain full control of the Congress – but there is no chance they
take a super-majority in the Senate. And then, what can they do? Cut
NASA, or kill the private space industry? Further ruin our nation’s
infrastructure? (It’s already collapsing, literally). Good luck
repealing Obamacare. Good luck re-instating DADT. Good luck sending
troops back to Afghanistan and Iraq. They could ruin the repaired
relationships with our allies. Even the Tea Party isn’t dumb enough to
sabotage our free-trade agreements.

His policies will last, and that’s because they’ve been moderate. But
that moderation also means they’ve engendered backlash on both sides.
That moderation also means they’re going to be tough to get rid of. And
the only thing left for him on the moderate side of the house are
immigration reform, and finishing the job on education and
infrastructure. Big tasks, no doubt (but tasks I also doubt anybody
but Obama can accomplish). And I will not underrate his poor form on the
short-term economy – that may cost him a second term, and is the most
important problem facing America today.

But overall, he’s already the most accomplished president since FDR –
and in only 3 years. And like FDR, his policies will be tough to get rid
of. Barack Obama may lose the presidency, but as the Tea Party moves to
the right, he has taken the center for the Democrats, and makes his
policies that much harder to erase.

Stop thinking about 2012. In 2020, it’ll be obvious – Barack Obama gave
Bobby Fischer a run for his money as the greatest of
chessmasters.<<

To be continued. (Bobby Fischer
photo from Chess.com.)

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