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On liberals and the White House

I'm sort of tired of debates over whether professional liberals are being too mean to the White House or the White House is being too mean to professional liberals, but Greg Sargent actually manages to say some interesting things about it here. As he notes, there are different critiques going around, and neither side tends to be clear on which one they're making or responding to at any given time.

For the record, I'm in agreement with the view that the Obama administration has been a disappointment on civil liberties, unconvinced by the argument that a more combative White House would have led to more policy achievements, and hostile to the view that things like health-care reform aren't major successes worth celebrating.

By Ezra Klein  | September 28, 2010; 2:18 PM ET
 
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Comments

Agree, though I wonder if some of the bills (heath care, fin reg, stimulus) could have been better with a more assertive White House that got out in front of them before almost the last minute.

What's particularly tone deaf is becoming more combative with his supporters than he has with Republicans. Yesterday's speech sounded a lot like a hand-washing in advance: if we take a beating in November, it's not because of anything we did, or didn't do. it's because our ungrateful base deserted us.

Posted by: dlk117561 | September 28, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Maybe not necessarily more "combative" in terms of picking a lot of losing fights, but perhaps changing the game would have been helpful. Maybe focusing on Senate procedure as an impediment and attacking the Republicans over it and making it a talking-points-of-the-day issue on Republicans' automatic filibuster of every bill and every nominee. Maybe some "you're either with the filibuster, or you support the terrorists" type of stuff. You know, something that would show that the White House has some fight in it.

Posted by: constans | September 28, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe focusing on Senate procedure as an impediment and attacking the Republicans over it and making it a talking-points-of-the-day issue on Republicans' automatic filibuster of every bill and every nominee."

Pres. Obama's gang probably thought about what happened when GWB nudged out Trent Lott as majority leader and put their chips on Harry Reed instead?

Posted by: tuber | September 28, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm just unconvinced that there were any Republicans would would be more scared of having the President mad at them for not doing what he wanted than they would be of having their leadership mad at them for not doing what they wanted.

I basically agree with Ezra's positions, but I'd add that I'm hostile to the idea that liberals are going to stay home on election day because this or that policy that they wanted didn't get passed. No matter how you slice it this was a very productive Congress in a time with more obstruction from the minority than any other. There's not a single issue, however, that won't be worse with the current crop of Republicans in charge. If you care about liberal policies then you will be worse off if the Dems lose. Full stop.

Posted by: MosBen | September 28, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

No you cannot be tired here. You are party to this mess....

Here is a problem I guess for some Libs or Progressives like me: chances of Dems in Lame Duck Congress 'caving' to GOP demand of tax cuts for all are quite high. Obama has not said that he will veto a bill which extends tax cuts for rich.

Given this, to respond to Obama criticism in Rolling Stone interview, and to vote for Dems means to accept politicians who are about to deceive us.

Voting GOP meaning voting politicians who never told us the truth (managing entitlements while extending tax cuts) and that is worse than Dems.

But following Marxist kind of thinking, will GOP victory in Congress not bring the 'collapse' of Economic Edifice of this country down? Chances are very high since next Congress will be a mess. Senate with any party of 40 votes can practically screw the other party and in that sense what House does, it does not matter. Meaning GOP controlled House will be reduced to close government for Budget bills and subpoenas. That is a recipe for Market crash with Treasury bond rates going up. Will it not bring forward the day when Americans finally have to make up their minds about the intractable issue of Entitlements versus Tax Cuts? That will be the case.

This can be rationalized, because Dems & Obama (despite they could argue that HCR is the proof of how they are ready to eat Spinach and how they have walked that talk even though public throws stones on them for that) in the end are not 'crossing the line' (again your earlier post of how Obama failed to change Washington) which is necessary if we want resolution to America's problems of 3 decades - reconciling what we want and what we are ready to pay. The line Dems need to cross is to say emphatically that taxes have to go up as entitlements are not reduced.

This is a response to Obama's scolding in Rolling Stone and our debate of Professional Left v/s WH continues in a different manner.

Posted by: umesh409 | September 28, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

i am completely demoralized by the lack of recognition and approval given to president obama for his accomplishments and hard work.
i think that many democrats have turned into whiners and complainers....and have truly, let the perfect be the enemy of the good.....and i still think that it is the democratic contingent of hillary supporters, who still will not accept the presidency of barack obama, and continue to deny and diminish all of his accomplishments. they are not much different from the birthers, trying to sink his presidency, feeling in their hearts that his victory wasnt legitimate....in the meantime, they are hurting all of us.
when barack obama spoke out against john boehner, he was mocked for it. well, americans should know who boehner is. the lack of involvement and familiarity at this critical time, is not barack obama's fault, it is the lack of serious attention being paid to what is really happening.

i am frustrated by the amount of frenzied publicity given to sarah palin's every move, and now christine o'donnell, and every breath taken by sharon angle.
the democrats should be angered and energized by these candidates, but instead the news is focused against barack obama.
there are other desperately importantly races out there....for instance, there should be serious national coverage of the whitman-brown race. meg whitman has not voted for most of her adult life....has poured fatuous amounts of money into her own campaign....and if she wins, she will have bought her own election.
if she becomes the governor here, it will affect the rest of the country. some of her patrons are some of the most conservative voices in california politics.
but instead, day in and day out, we read about christine o'donnell on a satanic altar.
democrats had better wake up.

Posted by: jkaren | September 28, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

While I recognize that getting a stimulus and healthcare passed, I was unhappy with the starting positions of both bills. Esentially, President Obama started negotiations with conservatives at the point he wanted to end up at (or should have ended up at). So the actual bills ended up being too small (stimulus) or lacking major components (healthcare, public option).

The original estimate of the stimulus needed was about $1.6 Trillion. We ended up with half of that. And this was only 2 months into his Presidency (and in the middle of a crisis), when he should have been able to get anything he wanted through.

With regards to healthcare, it dragged on w-a-y too long for most people, and most people really don't like to see the sausage being made. Plus, the one thing that the liberals wanted to see was the public option (right or wrong). That's what was "sold" to us as being the biggest part of keeping costs down. And we didn't get it. Personally, I'd rather have seen the anti-trust exemption eliminated and the Wyden-Bennett bill passed. But that's water over the bridge.

The flip side is that his administration has been w-a-a-a-a-y to cozy with Wall Street, and in particular, his main economic advisors (Summers and Geithner) have been too far to the right. We may have passed "financial reform" but banks are still too big to fail, and there is no replacement for Glass-Stegall.

So, yes, I think President Obama has had some major acomplishments, but I expected more from him.

Posted by: msollot | September 28, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

umesh409, if you're opperating under an assumption of "If we let the Republicans make it worse then we'll come out on the other side with paradise!" then you only need to look to the '08 election to see if that's likely to happen. We have a relatively stable system. We're not headed towards a Marxist revolution. As anti-Republican as the country was, we got a moderately liberal president, a moderately liberal Congressional majority constrained by procedural rules in the Senate, and a still too big role for money/lobbying.

And in getting to that point we only had to get into two disasterous military campaigns, have all kinds of civil rights abuses, and just generally have to deal with having our government run about as irresponsibly as it could be for six years.

Push Dems to the left all you want. Indeed, the need to be pushed to the left, and we should support primary challenges to do that too. When it comes to an election, however, staying home or not voting for the most liberal candidate is completely stupid if you care at all about liberal policies.

Posted by: MosBen | September 28, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

"unconvinced by the argument that a more combative White House would have led to more policy achievements"

The argument is that if Obama had fought harder, even if he lost his base would be more enthusiastic about supporting him. Which would be foolish to dicount.

Posted by: B405 | September 28, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

"i am completely demoralized by the lack of recognition and approval given to president obama for his accomplishments and hard work"

Which of his accomplishments do you think are not getting enough recognition? Approving the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, or seeking authority to kill Americans without any kind of trial, or expanding the blanket of executive secrecy to cover even more than George Bush wanted? Is it his committee to cut Social Security benefits, or his escalation of the war in Afghanistan?

Posted by: B405 | September 28, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

But then 2008 did produce a Liberal Government which passed HCR whereas Clinton Progressives failed. So it is not that in the next 'iteration' we get the same 'other side of the paradise'.

My main beef is indeed with Tax Issue and the larger context of 'entitlements and paying for that'. I am okay with Energy Bill not passed or Guantanamo not closed or DADT did not go through. I would have liked all those but I would not hold my vote for that. I also do not like compromises in HCR and FinReg; but it is much better than getting nothing and so I am all on board for what this Congress and Obama have done.

Problem is the 'open deceiving' which is going on here with the Tax Cut bill - Dem Politicians are simply taking their backers for ride and it is the question of submitting to this 'slavish' deception.

The idea is to force our political system to face the core problem of 'entitlement & what we pay' and reasoning with GOP victory is that for sure by their disastrous ways of spending coupled with Tax Cuts we will reach that stage early. Dems are simply refusing to 'ripe' the situation along with 'deception' and that is no good. Attraction for GOP is ‘those monkeys will take us to the jungle fast’ and then American Political System will be forced to face the music.

Posted by: umesh409 | September 28, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

"Which of his accomplishments do you think are not getting enough recognition? Approving the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, or seeking authority to kill Americans without any kind of trial, or expanding the blanket of executive secrecy to cover even more than George Bush wanted? Is it his committee to cut Social Security benefits, or his escalation of the war in Afghanistan?"


obama, in his presidential campaign, was very clear on his thoughts about afghanistan, although maybe some of his supporters didnt want to hear that part.
how much power do you think he has, to transform wall street and the greed and criminality that runs through its veins?
do you think the alternative of the clintons, and their souls sold to wall street, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, with infusions of money and tax writeoffs, into their private interests and initiatives was not a conflict of interests, to even consider running for the presidency?
i think it is remarkable, that we got any kind of finance reform and health care reform passed., considering what a battle it was.
i cant believe the lack of acknowledgement on the part of many democrats, how hard a struggle it was, to get as much as we were able to.
does anyone think it was possible to get more? i think anyone imagining that we could have, is thinking about pie-in-the-sky.
i think that barack obama has taken a very courageous stand where israel is concerned. most politicians are scared to death to stand for social justice and speak out.
perhaps the forces that exist, are all just too powerful, but he has certainly tried. i give him great credit for his courage. he stood up to the most powerful special interests there.
i couldnt believe the protests against the moratorium after the oil disasters. i still am in disbelief that financial interests could transcend safety concerns. and he took a great deal of heat for that too.
in fact, i dont think there is anything he has done, including pulling us back from the financial disaster he inherited, that he has received fair praise for.
it doesnt matter what he does, he is lambasted.
either some feel he isnt doing enough, or the others feel he is doing too much. there is hardly any middle ground.
nothing is perfect. but when i think of ronald reagan, bill clinton, george w bush.....i am incredibly thankful for president obama's leadership and his character.
i dont agree with everything he has done. but i dont agree with everything that anyone does.
but i give him enormous credit.
and i also believe that just for self-restraint alone, and for the way he has conducted himself in the presence of his enemies, he deserved the nobel peace prize.
we live in crazier times than usual.
and i believe if people were thinking more clearly, they would have more appreciation for all that president obama has been trying to do.
no-one is perfect. i dont understand what people expect of barack obama.

Posted by: jkaren | September 28, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

jkaren - basics, Obama is not for election. It is Dems in Congress and we know how coward those are. That is what we are talking. Worse is, these same Dems are on way to play on us as far as Tax Cuts go. So indeed it is an issue of different set of people and not an individual Obama.

Posted by: umesh409 | September 28, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

" So indeed it is an issue of different set of people and not an individual Obama."

i was responding to a specific comment that was written about the accomplishments of president obama, unless i misinterpreted it.

sorry to digress,
but i just finished listening to the brown-whitman debate, and if people in california are willing to cast a vote for a person, who has never voted in an election in her entire adult life, and feels that with a record like that, she deserves to be governor of california....and who has spent more money on her campaign than has been spent in u.s. history, then it is hard to know what to think about the state of american politics, or many of the people who are casting votes.

who, in their right mind, could run for governor of california, and stand up on the podium, and have the unbearable chutzpah to admit to never having voted in an election.
i just cant seem to get this through my head, that someone could do this.
it is amazing.

"there are more things on heaven and earth, horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Posted by: jkaren | September 28, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

You didn't address the main issue, the argument of the "3rd group" in Greg Sargent's analysis, which is that Obama's governing style of insider politics without clear principles and clear fighting for those principles, is terrible terrible politics -- it is what is leaving the base demoralized. People want to know that someone is fighting for them and that they stand for something, and they want to be involved in that fight. His campaign exemplified that, and they had an organization of 13 million people fired up and ready to go, self-organizing at a million levels empowered by the campaign's software and organizational training. They threw all that away the day they got elected, thought of it as a big email list for the Democratic party instead of the biggest political movement in memory (leaving that niche for the tea party to take over ...) and went for the insider Rahm game to pass legislation, rarely bothering to communicate or explain anything, and showing no fight for anything people wanted, be it a public option, or some support for the middle class and the foreclosed to counterbalance the bailouts for the rich, or proposing and fighting for a stimulus adequate to address the economic problems and unemployment (and failing to fight to do what it takes to make unemployment reasonably low by this election is a huge political as well as moral failing). Now Obama says "look at all the great legislation we passed", and there's some truth to it, but it's also the case that the coalition and movement that elected him is demoralized and dispersed and the Republicans are fired up and ready to go, and neither you nor he are looking at *that* and the degree to which his style of governing is responsible.

Posted by: kenm3 | September 28, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

" rarely bothering to communicate or explain anything, and showing no fight for anything people wanted, be it a public option, or some support for the middle class"

"showing no fight for anything people wanted, be it a public option"...do you really think that was an option??
i cant believe that anyone can still think that was a viable option.
obama was pragmatic. he knew what was possible.
i cant believe that even now, with so much resistance to health care reform, and talk of repealing health care reform....people still think that the public option could ever have happened. i think it was pie-in-the-sky, to think that was ever going to happen. i dont think it ever could have happened.
look at the political climate that obama is working in.
he has doggedly tried to be a president for everyone, but he gets lambasted for that, also.

and why is anyone in the base demoralized about the health care reform that is now in law. obama put much on the line to get that passed. there was constant communication, discussion.
it was a national obsession for months.
and it took a lot of courage to do it.
and does he get credit for it?
no. just complaining that it didnt go far enough.
or....that it has gone too far, with death panels and socialized medicine.
how can he possibly win???
from one extreme to the other.....from the sublime to the ridiculous.

and not bothering to communicate or explain anything? how can you accuse president obama of that.
do you remember our last president?
that was "not bothering to communicate or explain anything."
how quickly we seem to forget.
and when obama says, "look at the great legislation we have passed," he has every right to say that.
maybe much of the base, expected miracles, and not a human president, who was struggling very hard to get things done, in terrible circumstances, and a political climate that is worse than any i have seen in my lifetime.

Posted by: jkaren | September 29, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

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