Is extremism in the pursuit of extremism a virtue?

We’re all enjoying, for now, the anguish experienced by many on the left over Barack Obama’s entirely predictable lunge towards the center, now that he has clinched the Democratic nomination. But few seem to be enjoying it more than our friend Tiger Hawk. He writes:

In this morning’s lead editorial (“New and Not Improved”), [the editors of the New York Times] detail and denounce many of Obama’s post-Hillary pivots to the center. As their irritation builds, I’m thinking that there are only three positions that could explain this editorial. First, that the editors genuinely believe that Obama could win the general election with his primary season policy ideas. It is believable that they think this because they live inside a Manhattan cocoon, but silly. Second, that the editors would rather that Obama lose than compromise his principles. This seems unlikely in the cold light of a November morning, however satisfying it might feel to spew such romantic drivel on the Fourth of July. Or, third, the editors know that Obama’s pivots will be much more believable to the swing voters if the Times denounces them. This theory holds that the editors are pretending to be outraged so as to further deceive the rubes who prefer the Flop to the Flip.

It is so hard to know which explanation to believe.

The first explanation seems like the most plausible of the three, but let’s consider two more. Fourth, the New York Times is just posturing. It wants Obama to win at all costs and recognizes that (though he might well win running from the left), his chances are better if he moderates. However, the editors want to preserve their purity and can do so at no cost by expressing disappointment with Obama. Fifth, the Times is thinking ahead. It understands that Obama maximizes his chances of winning by tacking towards the center and isn’t that bothered that he’s doing so. But it has its eyes on the Obama presidency and wants to make it plain to the candidate that, as president, he’ll need to return to his lefitst principles if he wants to stay on the Times’ good side.

JOHN adds: Bear in mind that the Times endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. I don’t think they ever officially revoked that endorsement, but the paper shifted over to Obama when it became clear that he could win. I don’t think that history suggests the Times is holding out for purity at the expense of electability. Actually, I think the answer to the question posed by Tiger Hawk is answered pretty clearly at the end of the Times editorial. Perhaps too optimistically, the paper doesn’t think Obama has yet shifted decisively on Iraq:

There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don’t want any “redefining” on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in.

I think the Times was warning Obama not to abandon his commitment to defeat in Iraq.

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