Friday, August 12, 2011 at 5:07 AM
[F]ar too much of this criticism is fickle, hypocritical and emotionally wrought… The real narrative arc of course is that progressive columnists (like Maureen Dowd of the New York Times) who once fawned over Obama’s style are now criticizing it.
But I hope Obama shows the same indifference towards their criticisms that he showed when they were swooning over him not so long ago. Because it would be a travesty if he were to try now to emulate that emotional chameleon Bill Clinton – who these same media prima donnas ridiculed for continually feigning emotions just to curry political favor.
(BP spill turns swooning over Obama toxic, The iPINIONS Journal, June 7, 2010)
This is how I dismissed the internecine criticisms fellow progressives were hurling at President Obama last year in the wake of the BP oil spill. Lately though it seems they’ve been trying to outdo conservatives in their gratuitous and often ad-hominem criticisms of him.
Mind you, this is not to say that Obama does not deserve heaps of criticism. In fact, a cursory search of this weblog will reveal that few people have been more critical of some of his policies than me.
Most notable has been my criticism of his incomprehensible decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Just days ago I wrote that the body blow the Taliban/al-Qaeda gave America by killing those celebrated Navy Seals there last week was just the latest incidence of chickens coming home to roost because of that ill-fated decision.
And, as regards the now prevailing criticisms of his economic policies, which have made strange bedfellows of progressives and conservatives, here is how I presaged much of this 18 months ago:
[H]e’s turning out to be all talk and no action… I urge him to spend less time talking and more time creating jobs…
(Obama: what we have is a failure to communicate, The iPINIONS Journal, January 26, 2010)
Specifically, like most progressives, I have criticized Obama for failing to submit a jobs plan commensurate with all of his talk about focusing on creating jobs. This is why I was encouraged yesterday when he promised that he will have one ready for legislative action when Congress returns in September. And he made it clear that his plan will include all of the road-building and bridge-repairing features (complete with an “infrastructure bank”) that progressives have been clamoring for.
Despite my criticisms, however, I have never doubted Obama’s commitment to the core progressive principles that made him such an appealing presidential candidate. By contrast, many of my progressive friends have become not just disillusioned, but disaffected because of what they consider his unwillingness to fight for, or his outright abandonment of, these principles.
But, with all due respect, I fear they are suffering a mild form of the same delusional zealotry that afflicts Tea Partiers. For what they criticize as Obama’s weakness for not matching the Tea Partiers’ my-way-or-the-highway approach to governing is just his pragmatic way of trying to get something, anything done – given a Republican-controlled House that he knows is hell-bent on blocking anything he proposes.
As my October 2006 commentary entitled Run Obama Run will attest, I was a die-hard Obama supporter long before most of these disillusioned folks even knew his name. More to the point, I have always known and accepted that the key to his appeal as a transformative politician was his pragmatism.
I was also mindful, however, that the bane of his presidency would be left-wing ideologues who would mistake his pragmatism for weakness. But I was confident that Obama would always have enough self-confidence to make pragmatic compromises despite carping from the left.
(“Mutiny against Obama over Bush tax cuts,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 9, 2010)
Of course I get why so many progressives want to see him stand up to Republicans just for the sake of proving to them that “Yes, he can”. But just because political jihadists in the Congress would rather destroy the country than compromise one iota on their agenda does not mean that Obama should become a political jihadist too.
Meanwhile, given the way these progressives are joining conservatives in dismissing him as a spineless, feckless leader, you’d think Obama has nothing to show for his preternatural pragmatism. Whereas, in fact, this enabled him to:
- negotiate a stimulus package (pulling the U.S., if not the world economy, from the precipice of another Great Depression);
- bailout the auto industry (saving it from imminent and terminal collapse and saving tens of thousands of blue-collar jobs);
- sign landmark healthcare reform (providing health insurance to over 30 million poor Americans and prohibiting adhesive insurance practices);
- sign unprecedented financial regulation (overhauling the financial industry for the first time in generations – complete with a consumer bureau to protect borrowers against abuses in mortgage, credit card and other types of lending);
- sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (launching a new era of national service and volunteerism);
- sign the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (making it easier for women to sue for equal pay);
- expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP – providing health, dental and vision coverage to poor children);
- ease restrictions on stem cell research; appoint the first Hispanic, Sonia Sotomayor, to the Supreme Court; and enact student-loan reform (making the government, not loan-sharking commercial banks, the originator of student loans); just to name a few.
Except that it would be remiss of me not to mention the daring orders he issued for Special Forces to rescue an American sea captain from Somali pirates and to finally get Osama bin Laden: Weak? Spineless? Feckless? I don’t think so….
Obama is clearly convinced that maintaining his reasonable, pragmatic approach will redound to his and the Democrats’ favor in November 2012 when voters have their next opportunity to decide who should be kicked out of office for turning Washington into such a dysfunctional mess. I agree.
When voters consider what it’s going to take to finally address the nation’s problems in a reasonable and constructive manner, I think the vast majority of them are going to opt for his balanced and necessarily bi-partisan approach instead of the dogmatic and devilishly doctrinaire approach that every Republican seems to have taken a religious oath to follow. For it is oxymoronic, if not Talibanic for Republicans to insist that they can balance the budget and reduce the national debt without ever compromising in negotiations with Democrats.
Which brings me to this simple question for my progressive friends: if not Obama, whom? And please do not mention the wistful fantasy of seeing Hillary Clinton mount a Kennedyesque challenge to him next year. Voters are disdainful enough of the betrayal Republican Jon Huntsman pulled by resigning from Obama’s Cabinet to run against him. Hillary is too sensible and indeed too pragmatic to even contemplate such a betrayal. The far more likely scenario – long rumored in Washington – is that she and Vice President Joe Biden will switch jobs so that she will be ideally positioned to succeed Obama in 2016.
So criticize him, get pissed off, become disaffected. But do not ever lose sight of the fact that there’s no politician more capable of leading America through this period of mindless political pandering and brinkmanship than Barack Obama. My support for him is as strong as ever and, despite all of the kvetching by progressives and demonizing by conservatives, I predict he’ll be reelected in a Reagan-style landslide.
Frankly, it smacks of a cult of sheer madness that every Republican thinks he (or she) can get elected by merely promising to reinstate the Bush policies that got this country into all of the economic and military mess Obama is trying to get it out of….