On PBS, Jonathan Alter Lauds ‘Centrist’ Obama Who Has ‘Defended The American Social Contract’

Jonathan Alter showed up on PBS’s Charlie Rose Wednesday to promote the new book in which he celebrates Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection. The Bloomberg columnist doesn’t seem to understand the irony of his book’s title – The Center Holds. He really does believe President Obama is a centrist, and he attempted to explain the title from the comfort of Rose’s dark studio:

“So the reason I call the book The Center Holds is, you know, not just ObamaCare, but he has defended the American social contract against an assault by the American Right.

It sounds like Alter is suggesting that ObamaCare is part of the American social contract, or at least that there is something centrist about it. When did we get to that point? Government meddling in the healthcare industry is alien to American character.

Alter explained further: “So he’s defended the progressive accomplishments of the 20th century, which became centrist and supported by the broad middle of the country – things like Medicare and Social Security, aid to education -- all these things that were challenged by movement conservatives and in some cases slashed – investments in the future, medical and scientific research.”

Now we’ve gotten to the heart of Alter’s belief. Apparently, in his mind, the American ideological spectrum has no absolute standards. Things that were once considered “progressive” have become “centrist” over time. Liberals in the 20th century expanded the welfare state and generally increased the size and power of the federal government, and we are now expected to accept our country’s position on the Left as the new Center.

Alter even went so far as to suggest that Obama’s defense of America’s “progressive accomplishments” makes him the conservative: “So he sees himself as the guardian of that, and in that sense a small “c” conservative president who’s protecting those achievements.”

Let’s get this straight: leftists over the past century fundamentally changed America, and Obama wants to protect those changes, so therefore he is conservative? Only in the loosest sense of the word. True American conservatives – big “C” Conservatives, if you will – wish to conserve the original character of the United States, not the modern welfare state that leftists have created.

Later in the interview, Rose jumped into the Obama lovefest, speculating as to why the president has so many detractors: “[P]art of it comes from the fact that he beats the hell out of them.

The host then attempted to be fair: “I’m sure that there are cases of Republicans who are so good that Democrats had a hard time, had a visceral reaction against them because they were so good at what they did and they constantly beat them.”

Of course, Rose didn’t bother to name any names. Instead, he drove home his point about Obama’s superiority: “But you do get a sense of that, that his success in life is too much – it’s too – it’s too… perfect.

There you go. President Obama’s opponents can’t handle his success in life. He is just too perfect for them. I guess they just need to accept him for the centrist that he is.  

Below is a partial transcript: [And the full interview can be seen here.]

JONATHAN ALTER: So the reason I call the book The Center Holds is, you know, not just ObamaCare, but he has defended the American social contract against an assault by the American Right. So he’s defended the progressive accomplishments of the 20th century which became centrist and supported by the broad middle of the country – things like Medicare and Social Security, aid to education -- all these things that were challenged by movement conservatives and in some cases slashed – investments in the future, medical and scientific research. So he sees himself as the guardian of that, and in that sense a small-c conservative president who’s protecting those achievements and also trying to prepare us for the challenges of the 21st century by, most important, educating the workforce so that it can compete in a global economy and trying to do something on climate change, which he did not talk about enough during the campaign.

***

CHARLIE ROSE: It’s almost like they thought he was un-American, you know.

ALTER: They did, and you had people like John Sununu who were saying this kind of thing, which was to me ironic because they said, you know, you don’t believe in American exceptionalism, they would say to Obama. Well, he’s about the best illustration we have of what makes us an exceptional country.

ROSE: The other thing about that too is that, I mean, you get a sense that, and there was a bit of this with respect to President Clinton, is that they – part of it comes from the fact that he beats the hell out of them, I mean they’re -- in different cases so good. I’m sure that there are cases of Republicans who are so good that Democrats had a hard time, had a visceral reaction against them because they were so good at what they did and they constantly beat them. But you do get a sense of that, that his success in life is too much – it’s too – it’s too –

ALTER: And it came very quickly.

ROSE: -- perfect.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.