By John Ballard
In the last few days separate interviews with Bill and Hillary Clinton, journalists have asked about her willingness or availability to run for president in 2016. What difference might the election of another President Clinton have had on events of the last three years?
Now I'm no good at playing "what if?" games and have no intention of starting now. But it is safe to say that the election of a black president has animated the race issue in a way that nothing else could have done. And at some level the demonizing of Trayvon Martin is proxy evidence. Organizations that track hate groups report an escalation of activity, gun and ammo sales are at record levels and there is no doubt in my mind that bigotry is a root cause driving the animus toward immigrants and poor people.
That backward shift in what most Americans ifelt was progressive thinking turns out to be symbolic of a larger retrograde shift across the social and political landscape. With the election only a few months away it's time to focus on what happens if Barack Obama does not serve another term.
Not to put too fine a point on it, last night's Republican primaries signal that a candidate has finally been selected and the president, anticipating that development, delivered a hard-hitting political speech aimed at the GOP. He included a serious effort to set the narrative for the public argument for the next few months and in so many words said it's time for Democrats to circle the wagons.The transcript is a study in clear thinking, displaying some of the sharpest arrows in his quiver, but this part aimed at reporters is worth repeating.
I guess another way of thinking about this is -- and this bears on your reporting. I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they're equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented -- which reinforces I think people's cynicism about Washington generally. This is not one of those situations where there's an equivalence. I've got some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress who were prepared to make significant changes to entitlements that go against their political interests, and who said they were willing to do it. And we couldn't get a Republican to stand up and say, we'll raise some revenue, or even to suggest that we won't give more tax cuts to people who don't need them.
And so I think it's important to put the current debate in some historical context. It's not just true, by the way, of the budget. It's true of a lot of the debates that we're having out here.
Cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems. The first President to talk about cap and trade was George H.W. Bush. Now you've got the other party essentially saying we shouldn�t even be thinking about environmental protection; let's gut the EPA.
Health care, which is in the news right now -- there's a reason why there's a little bit of confusion in the Republican primary about health care and the individual mandate since it originated as a conservative idea to preserve the private marketplace in health care while still assuring that everybody got covered, in contrast to a single-payer plan. Now, suddenly, this is some socialist overreach.
So as all of you are doing your reporting, I think it's important to remember that the positions I'm taking now on the budget and a host of other issues, if we had been having this discussion 20 years ago, or even 15 years ago, would have been considered squarely centrist positions. What's changed is the center of the Republican Party. And that�s certainly true with the budget.