Obama 'Repositioning' as a 'Pragmatic Centrist'...But the NYT Has Claimed for Years That He Already Is

Tuesday's off-lead story in the New York Times by Jackie Calmes from Washington claims Obama is now grasping centrism as a weapon in the budget battle. So why has the Times been telling us he has always been a pragmatic centrist? 'Obama Grasping Centrist Banner In Debt Impasse – Talks Remain Stalled – President Urges Biggest Deal Possible Despite G.O.P. Skepticism.'

For the last three years we've been told by the Times and the rest of the media Obama was in fact a 'pragmatic' centrist, unlike the conservative George W. Bush. Why would Obama have to "reposition" himself to ground he already occupied?

President Obama made no apparent headway on Monday in his attempt to forge a crisis-averting budget deal, but he put on full display his effort to position himself as a pragmatic centrist willing to confront both parties and address intractable problems.

At a news conference preceding the latest round of debt-reduction talks with Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders, Mr. Obama said he would not accept a temporary agreement to kick the problem down the road a few weeks or months.

He said that he was willing to take the heat from his own party to move beyond entrenched ideological positions and that Republicans should do the same. And he continued to insist on 'the biggest deal possible,' saying that now is the best opportunity for the nation to address its long-term fiscal challenges.

Republicans dismissed his performance as political theater. But Mr. Obama's remarks appeared to be aimed at independent voters as well as at Congressional leaders, and stood in contrast to the Republican focus on the party's conservative base, both in the budget showdown and in presidential politics.

Mr. Obama's remarks were among the clearest expressions yet of a repositioning effort that has been under way since the midterm elections last November, when Republicans captured the House and made inroads in the Senate.

Seeking to shed the image of big-government liberal that Republicans used effectively against him last year, he has made or offered policy compromises on an array of issues and cast himself in the role of the adult referee for both parties' gamesmanship, or the parent of stubborn children.

Notice the Times never admits Obama ever actually governed like a big-spending liberal with Obama-care and the enormous 'stimulus' spending, merely that Republicans had successfully portrayed him that way. Back issues of the Times are littered with claims Obama was governing as a centrist or moderate:

Reporter Jeff Zeleny on April 10 wrote a story under the online headline: 'President Obama Adopts Centrist Approach.' Zeleny also considered Obama a 'pragmatist' in December 2009: 'He delivered a mix of realism and idealism....he continued a pattern evident throughout his public career of favoring pragmatism over absolutes.'

An April 19, 2009 story by David Herszenhorn and Jackie Calmes claimed: 'In some of his earliest skirmishes, Mr. Obama eventually chose pragmatism over fisticuffs....Pragmatism, [his aides] add, is an Obama hallmark, and among the changes he promised - and has delivered - is a break from his predecessor's often uncompromising style.'

Here's reporter Jodi Kantor on Obama the law professor, May 3, 2009: 'Former students and colleagues describe Mr. Obama as a minimalist (skeptical of court-led efforts at social change) and a structuralist (interested in how the law metes out power in society). And more than anything else, he is a pragmatist who urged those around him to be more keenly attuned to the real-life impact of decisions.'

- Clay Waters is director of Times Watch. You can follow him on Twitter.