Peter Robinson has a piece in Forbes.com today on the discovery by David Brooks, Christopher Buckley, and David Gergen that President Obama is actually a liberal:
A couple of implications here are worth noting. The first is that a deep, recurring pattern of American life has asserted itself yet again: the cluelessness of the elite.
Buckley, Gergen and Brooks all attended expensive private universities, then spent their careers moving among the wealthy and powerful who inhabit the seaboard corridor running from Washington to Boston. If any of the three strolled uninvited into a cocktail party in Georgetown, Cambridge or New Haven, the hostess would emit yelps of delight. Yet all three originally got Obama wrong.
Contrast Buckley, Gergen and Brooks with, let us say, Rush Limbaugh, whose appearance at any chic cocktail party would cause the hostess to faint dead away, or with Thomas Sowell, who occupies probably the most unfashionable position in the country, that of a black conservative.
Limbaugh and Sowell both got Obama right from the very get-go. "Just what evidence do you have," Sowell replied when I asked, shortly before the election, whether he considered Obama a centrist, "that he's anything but a hard-left ideologue?"
The elite journalists, I repeat, got Obama wrong. The troglodytes got him right. As our national drama continues to unfold, bear that in mind.
I was actually present at that interview with Thomas Sowell and I recall that was the moment at which it began to dawn on me that there was simply no factual basis for believing that Obama was anything except extremely liberal.
I don't know that I would agree with Peter that the main problem here is the cluelessnes of the elite, although that is at least part of it. The passion for these ObamaCons and their desire to believe against all evidence that Obama was a moderate I think was spurred in large part because of their revulsion against Sarah Palin. In that sense, the polite establishment position was to distance oneself from the yahoos in the Republican Party in favor of the urbane Obama (although I'm not quite sure how Joe Biden fits in here). Whatever the motivation, the desire of many to believe that Obama was a moderate was really just a triumph of wishful thinking and a desire to believe that was true, rather than any actual facts.
I think that there were a few other factors that drove the willingness of Brooks, Buckley, Gergen, et al., to believe that Obama was a moderate, despite all evidence to the contrary. First, Obama himself seems like he should be a political moderate because his personality comes across as so calm and moderate. Most people, whether far-right or far-left tend to have more extreme personalities as well. Obama doesn't come across as a radical bomb-thrower (remember Brooks's fawning profile of Obama's discussion of Niebuhr?). So there is a tendency to infer from Obama's calm personality that he is a moderate. Second, some of the ideas that are floating around (like new tax increases and aggressive regulation in the midst of a recession and unrestrained budget-busting spending) just seemed so implausible that I think there was a tendency to discount them as something that Obama simply wasn't serious about and that perhaps they were nothing more than political posturing. Turns out it looks like he was serious about them.
As I confessed back in the fall, until I really looked at his positions carefully (prompted by Sowell's comment) that Obama's extremism really sunk in to me. For those with more of a personal crush on Obama (or a desire to want to believe in him) it looks like it took a longer time for this to sink in.