"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Inigo Montoya, in "The Princess Bride"
Practically from the day he splashed onto the scene eight years ago, Barack Obama has been derided as a "socialist."
Let's see. Private-sector job creation up. Auto industry rescued. Dow Jones Industrial Average up. Signature piece of domestic legislation centered on the idea that everyone must purchase a product from private-sector corporations that would not even exist in a truly collectivist society.
It can be hard to see why such unrepentant capitalists as Mitt Romney would even want to run against Obama and threaten this streak.
The big banks have been getting bigger. Not one of the Wall Street denizens personally responsible for the biggest economic collapse since 1929 has been called to account. The fines and settlements assessed to cheating mortgage lenders have been no more than eraser shavings on the balance sheets.
Not that any of that would get better if we turned out the incumbent for Romney. Clearly, it would all get much worse. That, plus restrictions on abortion, a return to torture and a high likelihood of a war with Iran.
Obamacare, roundly and falsely decried as a "government take-over of health care," has not nationalized a single hospital or put a single doctor on the government payroll. What it is designed to do is to place some common-sense/human-decency rules on the marketing and delivery of health insurance in a manner not so different than the regulations other industries have dealt with for decades.
In creating the existing version of Obamacare, Obama even negotiated away the idea of a public option. That would have been a government-run insurance plan that could compete with, and hold down the price of, nongovernment health plans.
A public option would have been less socialist than Medicare, because it would be, well, optional, while paying payroll taxes for Medicare is mandatory. But it was too much for the real powers that be in health care none of whom work for any government agency to swallow. So it was out.
Another knock on Obama has been his use of taxpayer money to boost the chances of green energy companies. One of them was the much-derided solar-cell maker Solyndra, which went bankrupt when its crony capitalism deal which is what, at worst, it was was undercut by crony capitalist outfits in China.
This isn't a clash between capitalism and socialism. It's just differing over whose cronies will be at the trough. And that's been part of American politics since our politicians wore wigs with pigtails.
Speaking of George Washington, one of the more hilarious attacks on Obama is the one in the book and movie by an odd scholar named Dinesh D'Souza. In a book called The Roots of Obama's Rage and a film titled "2016: Obama's America," D'Souza describes Obama as a threat to the American way of life because he is, get this, "an anti-colonialist." Well, so were the first seven people to hold Obama's job.
(D'Souza, by the way, is the same guy who argued that America had 9/11 coming because its global promotion of sexual depravity rightly offended the Muslim world. And the guy who just resigned his post as president of a religious university when it came out that he became engaged to one woman while still married to another.)
There is no real left wing in American politics. Arguably, there never was. Just one right wing that favors relatively progressive taxation and some rights for women, gays and workers, and one that doesn't.
George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, will entertain crony capitalism proposals at email@example.com or via Facebook at facebook.com/stateofthedebate.