CNN's Don Lemon: 'Is Obama More Conservative Than Most People Think?'

CNN's Don Lemon asked a guest Sunday if President Obama is "more conservative" than most would believe. Lemon referred back to his question last week, which NewsBusters reported, when he asked a Democrat congressman if Obama would do better running as a conservative in 2012.

The CNN anchor claimed he was being facetious then, but jovially added "Someone took that seriously." Then, quoting a columnist who argues Obama is a closet moderate-conservative, he posed the question to guest Heather McGhee from Demos.org: "Is Obama more conservative than most people think?"

Lemon had quoted from a piece by Fiscal Times columnist Bruce Bartlett, who argued that Obama has "always been moderately conservative" since the beginning of the 2008 campaign. Bartlett, sounding like a despairing liberal, wrote that Obama's being "moderately conservative" has been "obvious" to liberals ever since Obama ran for the White House.

Whether Lemon meant what he asked, or was simply trying to stir the pot with a provocative question, guest Heather McGhee responded in the affirmative. "I think definitely," she said of Obama being more conservative than most believe, "certainly more conservative than Republicans sort of like to paint him."

McGhee noted that President Obama wanted to reform the tax code without raising corporate taxes, "a pretty conservative position." She added that conservatives won't pay attention to that because they want him to fail more than they want to see the economy recover.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on August 7 at 6:29 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

DON LEMON: I want move on and ask you guys about this real quickly here. I want to read this quote from an article by Bruce Bartlett from the Fiscal Times. It's called "Obama the Covert Conservative Liberals Have to Love." Okay, so here's what it says. It says "In a recent article, I argued that Barack Obama has a practice – in practice governed as a moderate conservative. The truth is that Obama has always been moderately conservative, a fact that has been obvious to liberals dating back to the beginning of 2008, of the 2008 campaign."

Okay. So someone – when I said to a Democratic congressman last week, because of what happened with this debt ceiling, should Obama run as a conservative in 2012, I was being a little bit facetious there. Someone took that seriously. Heather, do you agree that, with what Mr. Bartlett said? Is Obama more conservative than most people think?

HEATHER MCGHEE, Washington director, Demos.org: I think definitely, certainly more conservative than the Republicans sort of like to paint him as. Look, if you look at where he is on, for example, corporate taxes. Corporate taxes are at their lowest share of the economy than they have been in generations. And he actually wants to reform the tax code but not raise any more money from corporations. That's a pretty conservative position.

LEMON: Okay.

MCGHEE: But this is the problem, is that he's never going to get any credit from that, from conservatives because, you know, they're really very focused on wanting him to fail more than they are wanting the economy and working families to succeed. It's really quite shocking to watch.

LEMON: Will, I would let you respond to that, but unfortunately we're out of time. So don't be mad at me, my friend.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014