President Barack Obama chastised the media last week. “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,” the president chided those attending the American Society of Newspaper Editors luncheon.
Obama also claimed that he holds positions that 20 or 15 years ago “would have been considered squarely centrist positions. What’s changed is the center of the Republican Party.” Oh, and Ronald Reagan “could not get through a Republican primary today.”
Yet many in the media don’t ask, Where are the moderate Democrats? When the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the individual mandate in Obamacare, court observers expect all four justices appointed by Democrats to back Obama. If any justices depart from their ideology, it will be Justice Anthony Kennedy (appointed by Reagan) and perhaps Chief Justice John Roberts.
So how did Obama vote on Roberts after President George W. Bush nominated him to the big bench in 2005? The Senate approved Roberts in a 78-22 vote. Good liberals — such as Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who no longer serve in the Senate — were among the 22 Democrats who supported Roberts. Other yes votes — Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman — probably couldn’t win and aren’t running for re-election.
Obama voted no on Roberts. Current Vice President Joe Biden also voted no. In 2006, when the Senate voted 72-25 to end a filibuster so it could approve Justice Samuel Alito, Obama and Biden voted against that, too. And the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., voted against Roberts and Alito.
Then there’s Obama’s conceit that his political positions would be considered “squarely centrist” 15 to 20 years ago.
Two decades ago, “access” to birth control meant that no law prevented women from getting a prescription for the pill or another contraceptive. “Access” didn’t mean what it means to this administration — no insurance copayments for birth control, even for health plans funded by church-based institutions with deeply held religious objections to birth control.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and denies federal benefits to same-sex partners. The House passed the bill 342-67; 118 Dems voted yes, and the Senate passed it 85-14. Biden voted yes. It was the centrist position in 1996.
In 2008, Obama promised to repeal DOMA if elected. Rather than push for a repeal vote, however, the administration announced last year that the Department of Justice no longer would defend the law against legal challenges. A centrist should support the rule of law, not tempt the courts to topple a law passed by a strong majority in Congress.
After moving his party to the far left, Obama expresses outrage that Reagan couldn’t win a GOP primary — even as Republicans seem poised to nominate Mitt Romney over objections from their party’s conservative base. He must think that if he keeps calling Republicans radical, the press will repeat his mantra without checking his record.
Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.