Power and Passion

11/08/2010 07:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Of course the Democratic establishment says, "move to the center," despite being unable to tell you what that actually means, despite being able to find any progressive Democrats who thinks the White House ever budged from the center in the first place, and despite the fact that that's exactly the same advice generously proffered by Fox, Palin and Jim DeMint.

What few seem to realize is that the center is vast and malleable. Once you get out of Washington and trim away the birthers, militias, Trostskyites and eco-terrorists you're left with the vast majority of the American people. What compels them to choose sides anywhere near the political center is the success of the candidate to tell the most reasonable, powerful and passionate story.

Unfortunately our fiercely intelligent, charismatic and perfectly reasonable president has stowed away his passion, muzzled his own power and refused to bind disparate policy into a compelling narrative ever since the inauguration.

Of course the White House finally did get back its mojo and stayed with one strong message during the last two months of the midterm campaign and I would guess that without that eleventh-hour push things could have ended up even worse. That is why I simply cannot get my head around highly paid Democratic consultants like Mark Penn urging the president to reward the GOP's successful power move by ceding to them even more of his own. Most depressingly, it seems like the White House is already leaning that way.

I'm not saying never reach across the aisle. It is not only a moral goal but one the public hungers for. But compromising from leader to legislature is a lot different from compromising among equals. What the White House still seems to have forgotten, even after the recent "shellacking," is that we elected a commander-in-chief, not mediator-in-chief. A mediator rarely offers his own opinions but steers both sides toward civility. That was exactly the role the president chose for himself during the public's best chance to get to know him -- the health care war; a war which isn't over yet and which the White House will continue to lose politically if they keep responding defensively to the onslaught of powerful GOP attacks.

Exhibits A and B, both the day after the election:

John Boehner: "I believe that the health care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world, and bankrupt the country."

Barack Obama: "There are going to be examples where, I think, we can tweak and make improvements on the progress that we made."

The president and I are both writers. He should know better. Does he really think he can battle active verbs like, "kill," "ruin," and "bankrupt," with, what, "tweak"?