Published on
the Marin Independent Journal (Calif.)

In Marin, Calif, Some See Obama Speech as Political Switcheroo

Richard Halstead

Marin residents who listened to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday included a progressive Democrat, who disliked many of the president's policy prescriptions, and two Republicans, who admire many of those same policies but doubt Obama's sincerity.

"The speech was nice but reflected deteriorating policies," said Norman Solomon, a West Marin author and progressive activist.

Referring to Obama's proposal for a three-year budget freeze, Solomon said, "Now he's not only a military hawk in Afghanistan, he's also become a deficit hawk with the domestic budget. This is exactly the wrong direction in terms of job creation. FDR would be rolling over in his grave."

And that was not all that rankled Solomon.

"On the environmental front, it was very troubling to hear him talk about 'safe, clean nuclear power plants.' That's an oxymoron," Solomon said. "The overall direction of this administration in recent months has been highly problematic from a progressive standpoint."

For a couple of Marin Republicans, however, Obama's new initiatives sounded almost too good to be true.

"This speech tonight was a total change in direction from what he's been talking about for the last year, and I hope it works for the country," said Tim Moreland of Tiburon, co-founder of the Marin Conservative Forum.

Moreland said he likes that Obama seems to have shifted his focus from health care reform to jobs creation. Moreland said he thinks the new policies are a reaction to the election of Sen. Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican.

"I don't think it is a true change in direction," Moreland said.

Moreland said Obama's proposal to impose fees on banks to recover money given to them during the economic crisis would simply result in higher fees to consumers.

As for Obama's pleas for more bipartisan cooperation in Congress, Moreland said, "That is absolutely a golden touch if that can be accomplished. Why wasn't it done during health care?"

Republican Christine Blackburn of San Rafael said her heart leapt when Obama said he might support offshore oil drilling and development of new nuclear power plants.

"I thought, 'Gosh, he's sounding like a conservative Republican, someone who really wants to get this country back on track in terms of the economy,'" Blackburn said.

Nevertheless, Blackburn remains skeptical.

"I don't see anything but a manipulative move on the part of Obama and his administration to try to move to the center," she said. "This man for me is very shallow."

For other Marin residents, Obama's willingness to anger voters at both ends of the ideological spectrum demonstrated courage.

"I think he showed a lot of strength through being honest and forthright and taking everything on directly," said Democrat Wendy Baker of Fairfax.

Patrick Murphy of Fairfax, a professor in the University of San Francisco politics department, said, "He kinda had something for either everyone to like or everyone to hate. There was a great sense of, I'm going to go my way."

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