Audit D.C. Notes: NYT on Obama’s Juggling Act; Mystery Pollster on How It’s Done in the U.K., FT on the Very Long View

President Obama’s ideological juggling act gets thoughtful treatment from the NYT’s Jackie Calmes. There’s no real news in the piece, but it’s a smart look at the fine line the White House is treading between the free market that makes big business happy and the populism that angry voters want.

From the time he took office, Mr. Obama’s juggling has made for a shifting and sometimes inconsistent record of rhetoric and policy. He has mixed, for example, condemnation of “Wall Street greed” with opposition to government caps on financiers’ bonuses, and criticism of oil companies’ profits with a recent call (now in abeyance) to expand offshore drilling.

It is enough to give rise to the equally contradictory criticisms he endures, from longtime enemies on the right crying socialism and from disillusioned supporters on the left who lament what they see as Mr. Obama’s pro-business bias.

There’s even a nice bit of historical perspective, with a look at the populist powers of Bill Clinton and Franklin Roosevelt. Well done.

—The U.K. election is hotting up, as they say, and Mystery Pollster’s Mark Blumenthal performs an important public service, with a column that spells out the differences in polling practices here and there.

Blumenthal explains that British prognosticators are interested in which party wins the most seats in Parliament, not which party gets the most votes, creating for pollsters a situation akin to the U.S. electoral college.

The big challenge for pollsters in Britain, however, is that the House of Commons consists of 650 constituencies (districts) — too many to allow for individual polls in each district.

Instead, most British news organizations conduct national polls and then attempt to predict how that vote will translate into seats in Parliament.

There’s lots of nitty gritty here, and Blumenthal spells it out in a way most of us can understand. Well worth a read before the voting starts on Thursday.

—We complain a lot about the absence of context in the business press. So it’s nice to see the FT take the very long view, with an online chat with Carmen Reinhart, director of the Center for International Economics at the University of Maryland and co-author of This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Watch and learn.

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Holly Yeager is CJR's Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy. She is based in Washington and reachable at