With the 2012 Republican field taking shape and an electorate polling to the right, President Obama is hedging his bets along with it.
The bitter battle over the National Labor Relations Board's complaint against Boeing and the company's decision to build a new non-union factory in South Carolina was an issue the president had long avoided, but now he's finally making his move.Obama didn't speak out on the issue himself, mind you. The president's new pick for Commerce Secretary is the one making the stand. But make no mistake: Obama has chosen his side in the first major labor-versus-business battle of the campaign season, and he's chosen business.
On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary nominee John Bryson said the NLRB's complaint against Boeing--in which the board alleges that building a major new factory in South Carolina was retaliation for past labor strikes (and therefore against the law)--was "not the right judgment."
"I think it's not the right judgment," Bryson said of the NLRB suit. He said Boeing officials were surprised by the legal action and said they believed they were "doing the right thing for the country" by keeping jobs in the U.S. and not moving them abroad.
By sending a proxy to pick the labor fight (one who still needs Republican support for confirmation to his position), Obama can show that his new Cabinet pick is not the left-wing boogeyman that the conservative establishment would disembowel and finicky independent voters might distrust.
Plus, having Bryson do the talking keeps Obama's hands slightly less dirty for when he inevitably has to come crawling back to the labor unions for their support during the election.
It's a tidy bit of political calculus. But one that comes at the cost of yet more of his liberal base.