Obama's an Ideologue and a Pragmatist
Which explains why it's still hard to get a fix on him
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2009 10:35 AM CST
President Obama in a file photo from Dec. 21.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(Newser) – Depending on the day, President Obama might be derided as a Marxist radical, a corporate pawn, or pretty much anything in between, writes Ross Douthat. A year into his term, nobody can quite get a political fix on him. Why? "Because he’s an ideologue and a pragmatist all at once," says Douthat. "He’s a doctrinaire liberal who’s always willing to cut a deal and grab for half the loaf. He has the policy preferences of a progressive blogger, but the governing style of a seasoned Beltway wheeler-dealer."

Surprised? We shouldn't be, because Obama has always been a legislator willing to work within the system, writes Douthat in the New York Times. He gets things done, even if sometimes his supporters would rather he walk away. "This leaves him walking a fine line. If Obama’s presidency succeeds, it will be a testament to what ideology tempered by institutionalism can accomplish. But his political approach leaves him in constant danger of losing center and left alike—of being dismissed by independents as another tax-and-spender, and disdained by liberals as a sellout."