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If Obama's really running to the middle, why is the Democratic Leadership Council folding?

February 8, 2011 |  3:34 am

Democratic Leadership Council founder Al From with Hillary Clinton in 2001

After an historic shellacking like President Obama and the Democrats endured last November, losing the House in a massive membership swing unseen for decades, a familiar pattern is for the defeated party to go through the Recovery Cycle.

That's a varying period of time of reconstruction and partisan rebranding for the vanquished party to reposition itself and refresh its leadership and membership to reflect the voters' most recent verdict.

According to the latest fashion in news reports out of Washington these days, the brilliant current occupant of the White House is doing just that by deftly waltzing toward the center of the political road in preparation for the next voters' verdict on Nov. 6, 2012, when his name and some new vice president will be on his party's ticket against a pair of as yet unnamed Republicans.

The oft-cited proof of this strategic and philosophic repositioning is Obama's hiring of....

...centrist Democrat William Daley as his chief of staff and talking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Monday without denouncing their greed, bonuses and profits like some kind of community organizer. (Obama Chamber speech text/commentary here.)

Plus, Obama is now talking about working on compromises with the Republicans party he didn't need and had no time for the first two years of his term. And, of course, the critical change of vocabulary in Obama's State of the Union Address, away from the word "spending" toward the word "investing."

Both words involve many millions of dollars going out the door for fixing a long laundry list of major things about America, but investing sounds better to a country gasping at a national debt that increases this much every single second of every single day.Obama names William Daley chief of staff 1-6-11

But if the president's alleged run-to-the-middle or at least re-positioning is genuine, it should be great news for the Democratic Leadership Council. That's the centrist group founded by Hoosier operative Al From following  the historically unprecedented 525 electoral vote landslide of President Reagan in 1984 over two standard Democratic liberals.

Starting in 1985 the DLC attracted numerous mainstream names like Al Gore, Joe Lieberman and Sam Nunn. 

And then came that Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who rode the DLC's new-wave into the White House as some kind of mutant commonsense Democrat.Clinton said his goal was to create a "dynamic but centrist progressive movement of new ideas rooted in traditional American values."

Yes, Clinton got spanked in the 1994 Republican Revolution for his wife's failed healthcare silliness, among other things. But President Clinton energetically seized back the center and walloped the GOP in his 1996 reelect when Republicans put up a tired team of former congressional legislators.

Last November's electoral spanking was even worse than 1994 for Democrats. Obama has hired a whole platoon of Clinton retreads. But how closely is this savvy repositioning president embracing the proven DLC model as undeniable proof of his change of political heart?

He's not.

Further evidence that both parties have moved farther to their own side of the road. In fact, word came Monday from Politico's Ben Smith that the one-time top-dog DLC, the outfit that Clinton said he could not have been elected without, is basically broke and suspending operations.

How eager was the instinctive liberal Obama to buttress this symbol of reasonable Democratic ideology? Or any other such group, for that matter? Well, his administration just hired away From's successor as DLC president, Bruce Reed, to be Joe Biden's chief of staff. And the council's been unable to find anyone willing to take on the leadership job.

In fact, the DLC's long been assaulted by its own left as a DINO, the liberal version of RINO, Republican In Name Only, that got so many moderate GOP members in hot water.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Michael Conroy / Associated Press (Clinton and DLC founder Al From, 2001); Win McNamee / Getty Images (Obama names William Daley chief of staff).