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Obama to Dems: 'Guys, wake up here.'

Okay, so maybe calling Democrats "weak-willed" and "whiners" in my last post was a little over-the-top. Perhaps the adjective I should have used is "unfocused." In an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama makes a good case for what his administration has accomplished in just two years. He also holds the mirror up to his party's cranky progressive wing, which often seems perfectly fine making the perfect the enemy of the good.

Rolling Stone Obama cover.jpg

The key question from Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner to Obama was, "What do you say to those people who have developed a sense of frustration -- your base -- who feel that you need to fight harder?" You can read the entire interview here. But below are the paragraphs that should focus Democrats on what the president has achieved and hopefully make them realize that governing is different from campaigning and that being president is not the same as being king.

Some of it, also, has to do with -- and I joke about it -- that there's a turn of mind among Democrats and progressives where a lot of times we see the glass as half-empty. It's like, "Well, gosh, we've got this historic health care legislation that we've been trying to get for 100 years, but it didn't have every bell and whistle that we wanted right now, so let's focus on what we didn't get instead of what we got." That self-critical element of the progressive mind is probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating.

When I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, "Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable." I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars....

After listing his accomplishment, Obama said:

You look at all this, and you say, "Folks, that's what you elected me to do." I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we've probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do -- and by the way, I've got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we've accomplished....

What is true, and this is part of what can frustrate folks, is that over the past 20 months, we made a series of decisions that were focused on governance, and sometimes there was a conflict between governance and politics. So there were some areas where we could have picked a fight with Republicans that might have gotten our base feeling good, but would have resulted in us not getting legislation done.

I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and The Huffington Post, and we would not have health-care legislation now. I could have taken certain positions on aspects of the financial regulatory bill, where we got 90 percent of what we set out to get, and I could have held out for that last 10 percent, and we wouldn't have a bill. You've got to make a set of decisions in terms of "What are we trying to do here? Are we trying to just keep everybody ginned up for the next election, or at some point do you try to win elections because you're actually trying to govern?" I made a decision early on in my presidency that if I had an opportunity to do things that would make a difference for years to come, I'm going to go ahead and take it.....

If we can't take pleasure and satisfaction in concretely helping middle-class families and working-class families save money, get a college education, get health care -- if that's not what we're about, then we shouldn't be in the business of politics. Then we're no better than the other side, because all we're thinking about is whether or not we're in power.

Not all Democrats are whining, weak-willed or unfocused. My ultimate Obama-barometer is my ex-partner Giuseppe. Sure, he's in the bubble of New York City. But I have plenty of New York friends who have fallen off of the Obama bandwagon. So, a defection by Giuseppe would be the clearest sign of the president's failure to get his message through. "What [Obama] is trying to do is so #@%*ing hard" after years of Republican rule of the White House and Congress, he said, "and in a society that is sooooooo spoiled."

On that last point, I have nothing more to say than "Amen!"

By Jonathan Capehart  | September 28, 2010; 4:22 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Next: Obama's 'long view' on gays in the military


As an independent who grew up on welfare, but is now a professional, I wonder where the true democratic party is? I had military service and the GI bill to help me get ahead. I question the sincerity of the ultra left when they basically walk away from Obama because they didn't get their every wish. Who's side are you on? You're going to lose the blue dogs and lose the election. The rich are really getting richer. Of course many of you are already rich so I guess it doesn't matter much to you. I live near Seattle with all the trust fund babies that have grown up to be leftists. If you really care about the downtrodden and poor you'll get your spoiled butts out for Obama. You're failing the aims of the democratic party miserably! Are you for real or not?

Posted by: Fergie303 | September 28, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capeheart;

I still think you're all wet. Who are these whiners we're all talking about? Fergie303 in the comment above seems to think the whiners are wealthy progressives/liberals. I'm gay, so whenever I hear the democrats talking about whiners, I consider it as code for queer. After all, we've been the red-headed step-children of the democratic party for, like, ever. There were many who thought that Obama's whole Rick Warren fiasco was an orchestrated effort to pick a fight with the left/liberal/progressive elements of the democratic party.

I know that you and President Obama, and David Axelrod and many others with varying degrees of trustworthiness tell us that we should be grateful for the efforts the president has made on our behalf. We should not whine; we should send thank you cards.

You'll forgive me, though, if I don't break out my stamp book. My experience in life has been that the moment someone tells you how grateful you should be is a moment past the point when you ought to have checked for your wallet.

So who are these whiners the President and Vice President are so dilligently castigating? To shorten a regrettably long question, Mr. Capeheart, does whiner = queer in the Obama Whitehouse? This is my question; this is my concern.

Posted by: seabelly1 | September 28, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I am not whining and the only thing I can get enthusiastic about is voting against Republicans. They, not Obama, are the clear and present danger. I am under no illusions, but nevertheless, I will be getting my whiny butt to the polls to
vote a straight Democratic ticket.

Posted by: martymar123 | September 28, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

No whining here. Just a simple declarative statement: As a gay voter, I will never again support the backstabbing Democratic Party until it proves, with results, that it has finally learned some respect. I hope that is "focused" enough for you, Capehart. Go whine about it with your ex-partner.

Posted by: uh_huhh | September 29, 2010 4:07 AM | Report abuse

Translation...give us more time to really destroy the economy...bring in more drug dealers and illegals and then I can declare martial law and run this country like Hugo Chavez does... Obama has given more of OUR MONEY to our enemies than any other President. All that money to Gaza and Hamas is grabbing most of it... nothing like arming the enemy... Time after time Obama proves that he is not on the side of hard working Americans..yet he wants us to believe that he is actually one of us... now he trots out the "I am a Christian speech " as if anyone is going to believe him....Muslim father ..atheist chance that he could learn Chrisitanity there... only a real hatred for America.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | September 29, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Inregards to JungleJim 123-What drugs are you on? Your comment is the perfect example of why people should not believe everything they read on the internet. I don't believe I,m evebn taking the time to comment about you. Who's the bigger fool? The fool or the person arguing with the fool?

Posted by: mg11231 | September 29, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Most of the Democrats I know are determined to vote this election, as am I.

I think the real problem the Democrats have this year is the low-key and annoying program to get votes. I can't count how many emails I received from national organizations and specific, targeted, campaigns just demanding that I donate. It's felt pretty much like a shakedown. Why have they ditched the 50 state program? It seems to me that in addition to being a program to elect Democrats, it was also an excellent way to engage Democrats across the country in the campaign.

I've donated, but most prominently to some ignored Democratic candidates, as well as to the national committees for Congress.

After all, if we don't want John Boehner to be the next Speaker, wouldn't it make a lot more sense to promote his opponent in 8th Ohio, Justin Coussoule, than to demand money for some anti-choice, anti-health care Blue Dog somewhere else in the country? This is an important race because it may involve the next Speaker; support for Coussoule would provide a good forum for opposing "Hell NO to Health Care" Boehner in his campaign to be third in line for the throne.

Posted by: freedom9 | September 29, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

In a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine, President Obama said he has Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones on his iPod. Unfortunately, the question was “Do you have a plan to fix the economy?”

Posted by: adamnescot1 | September 29, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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