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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dowd Rightly Disses Gibbs and the White House but Challanges "the Professional Left"

Maureen Dowd
Robert Gibbs was wrong in attacking "the professional left" whatever that means.  Much of that "left" was the most passionate in working for the President's election.  It is that left that most wants to see him succeed. So, for Gibbs to make his denigrating statements about the most progressive politics in the nation was impolitic to say they least.  Because of his actions, Maureen Dowd has called for Gibbs to step down.  He should.  But it should also be understood that this is not the first time.  Recall that during the health care debate, Rahm Emmanuel did some similar name-calling when it came to some of the "demands" of the left.  Unfortunately, this is the present atmosphere in the current staff.  There needs to be change in the White House staff in order to change the climate.

On the other hand, there is a contradiction within the left side of politics in America when it comes to governance.  The politics of "the professional left" has at its core movement politics. Being on the outside of what has been center-right politics, the left has always been in protest mode.  We have been great at protest. We changed America.  The success of our protests has made protest as our raison d'etre.  That said, one of Maureen Dowd's points is valid.  For many on the left, "pragmatism is moral compromise." As President, Obama's accomplishments are being discussed in favorable comparison when it comes to two of the nation's historic presidents, FDR and LBJ. -- in just one and a half years!! To its adherents, Social movement goals are not to be compromised. 

One of the first on the "professional left" to criticize the President was Bill Maher.  Maher argued early on that Obama was not kicking, like George Bush.  What is ignored is that Bush had a Congress and the white nation wedded to his ideological hegemony.  Obama is not an authoritarian, nor could he be.  As he said on election night, he is the President of all Americans, even those who did not vote for him.  To govern requires compromise.  Obama's failures as far as the left is concerned are that he has not gone far enough. While his white nationalist opposition is unmitigated in their attempts to de-legitimize his presidency, or as Media Matters frames it, Fox News and Tea Party campaigns to complete the "Willie Hortonization of the Presidency of Barack Obama." 

When it comes to universal health care, Ted Kennedy always regretted not taking an earlier compromise then refining it, much the way in which Medicare has been improved over time.  While there needs to be a left to push social policy.  That needs to come from rank and file social movement.  I am reminded of the silliness of some criticism that degrade the President because HE is not carrying out King's vision.   As Amiri Baraka argued "If we don't do nothing, he won't do nothing."  The President who campaigned as a "pragmatic progressive" is not the left's enemy. Both the White House and the left should understand that. After 30 plus years of Reaganism and white nationalist hegemony it is time consolidate the idea that "the truth" is on the left and have Americans believe it!!  RGN

No Love From the Lefties


Robert Gibbs should be yanked as White House press secretary.

Not because of his outburst against the “professional left.” He was right about that. In an interview with The Hill last week, Gibbs once more proved Michael Kinsley’s maxim that a gaffe is just truth slipping out.

He said the president’s lefty critics “ought to be drug-tested,” would only “be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon,” and “wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

His colleagues tried to excuse Gibbs by saying he was suffering from a bug going around the White House. But the press secretary and the president are understandably frustrated over the asymmetry at the heart of American politics: Rand Paul and Sharron Angle aside, Republicans often find a way to exploit their extremes for political advantage, while Democratic extremes typically do damage to a Democratic president.

One of the most disgusting things about Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl, and now the former maverick John McCain, is that they are happy to be co-opted by the radicals in their party to form one movement against President Obama.

On the Republican side, the crazies often end up helping the Republican leadership. On the Democratic side, the radicals are constantly sniping at Obama, expressing their feelings of betrayal.

Fox built up a Republican president; MSNBC is trying to make its reputation by tearing down a Democratic one.

We’ve known that the left was mad at Obama, but now we know Obama is mad at the left. Obama and Gibbs are upset that the lefties won’t recognize the necessity of compromise. The left is snapping back: What necessity? You won 365 electoral votes. You have both houses of Congress. And bipartisanship is an illusion.

Democrats are not prepared to go the whole way to appease their ideologues. The Republican leaders on the Hill, on the other hand, seem perfectly happy to go all out.

W.’s reign of error so enraged Democrats that they were bound by one desire: to get rid of him. Bush, Cheney and Rove inspired the Democrats to spawn a powerful lefty tower of babble led by Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore and the blogosphere.

After Bush, Democrats thought the way to paper over the distinction between liberals and radical lefties was to call everyone progressives. But calling yourself a progressive is just a stupid disguise where you pretend the contradiction isn’t there.

Some liberals, like the president, felt he could live without the public option, whereas lefties thought the public option was essential. Some liberals, like the president, think you can escalate our wars to end them, whereas lefties just want the wars ended.

There are deep schisms within the Democratic Party that were masked for a time, first by Bush and then by Obama’s election. Now that the Democrats have the presidency and the power and can enact legislation, it’s apparent that the word progressive is kind of meaningless.

President Obama is testing how elastic he can be, how much realism he can have before he betrays his idealism. For better and worse, he is an elitist and a situationist. But the professional left — like the professional right — often considers pragmatism a moral compromise.

The lefties came to the defense of the centrist Clinton during impeachment. Now that Obama is under attack, however, they are not coming to his defense, even though he has given more to the liberal cause than the scandal-stunted Clinton ultimately achieved.

He has shepherded the biggest expansion of social programs since the Great Society and spearheaded the biggest spending program with the stimulus. But for the left (and for some economists), it was not as big as it ought to have been.

Obama got elected because of the clarity of his campaign and his speeches. But, surprisingly, he’s in some ways an incoherent president. He’s with the banks, he’s against the banks. He’s leaving Afghanistan, he’s staying in Afghanistan. He strains at being a populist, but his head is in the clouds.

He needs to communicate more clearly. And, in that department, Gibbs isn’t helpful. He’s often unresponsive and sometimes hostile to the press. His adversarial barking has only heightened tensions with a press that was once lampooned for fawning over his boss.

Gibbs does not see his job as a bridge between the press and the presidency. He sees himself more as a moat. He has always wanted to be an inside counselor to the president. So Obama — who bonded with Gibbs during the campaign, over sports, missing their families and how irritating the blog-around-the-clock press corps is — would be wise to promote him to a counselor. Let someone who shows less disdain for the press work with the press, and be the more engaging face of the White House.

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