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The Deepening Shadow of Plains

“More mush from the wimp” was the infamous (and accidental) Boston Globe headline over an article about a Jimmy Carter speech; it sums up Robert Kuttner’s feelings about President Obama in his latest at  Is Texas governor Rick Perry too right wing to be electable, Kuttner asks.  Not against Obama, he warns.

Everyone should take a close look at Perry’s introductory TV ad, available on YouTube. It’s state of the art and underscores just how lame and vulnerable President Barack Obama makes himself.

Kuttner is only the latest center-left thinker to throw up his hands in despair at what many see as a president who lacks the clarity and drive to fight for his side.  Obama’s lack of street fighting instincts drives Kuttner into some passionate prose:

So what did Obama do in the face of Perry’s attacks? He of course turned the other cheek.

Obama did not respond to Perry’s attacks, even when Wolf Blitzer, during his Tuesday CNN interview, tossed the president a high, hanging curve ball to knock out of the park.

“I’ll cut him some slack,” Obama said,“He’s only been at it for a few days now.”

Isn’t that nice? Obama will be remembered as the most magnanimous of ex-presidents.

Kuttner is one of those who believes the President needs to come out fighting more for his beliefs.  Maybe so, but one of Obama’s core beliefs seems to be that American politics needs to be less confrontational and demagogic and that compromise and conciliation should play larger roles in our national life.  That isn’t surprising; at heart Obama is a Wilsonian progressive rather than a street fighting leftist.  He believes that the essential mission of intellectuals in politics is to bring more light and less heat into public debates and that rational deliberation serves the public good better than the creation and use of raw power. He is able to use raw power in the service of what he believes to be right, but he becomes uncomfortable and awkward when scrapping for it in the streets.

Unless he possesses some hitherto unseen depths of complexity, President Obama does not seem to be or to want to be the fighter Kuttner seeks.  Where that leaves the President and his liberal base, we shall see.  The Shadow of Plains only deepens.

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  • Corlyss

    James Taranto had a great point earlier in the week. The left’s exquisite dispair is not due to Obama’s not fighting for their goals. That’s bald rationalization. Obama did as much was humanly possible to realize the left’s dreams. Their problem is that their long-dreamed of perfect left Philosopher-King president has enacted many of their perfect left policies and strategies, and they all failed together. Their perfect Philosopher-King not only failed but was reviled by the hapless peasantry for whom so many perfect left programs were designed. The left simply can’t face the failure of their precious social schemes. It has to be someone’s fault, not the fault of the ideas.

  • Randy

    Dr. M,

    How is the Hamiltonian disillusionment with Obama going to play into this? I figure they see Romney as the lesser of evils but it’s seriously doubtful that he’ll get any Jacksonian support in the primaries.

  • nadine

    “…one of Obama’s core beliefs seems to be that American politics needs to be less confrontational and demagogic and that compromise and conciliation should play larger roles in our national life”

    Say WHAT?! You mean, Obama’s core belief is that opponents should stop confronting him and hasten to agree with whatever he says. Obama spends all his time blaming and scolding others for demagoguery when he himself is the champion of the art.

    Let us all remember that when Obama was on top – when he had 60% approval and filibuster-proof control of both houses of Congress, his own approach to “compromise and conciliation” was to tell the Republicans on the Hill “We won.” and shut the them out of legislative deliberations. Obama’s $4 Trillion Federal Budget, his $800 Billion Stimulus, and his Heaven-knows-how-much Obamacare were rammed through on party line votes in defiance of normal legislative procedures. What Democrats like to forget is that all the compromising Obama did on these issues occurred inside the Democratic Caucus.

  • Bruno Behrend

    Obama can’t “fight for his beliefs” because they are so far out of the mainstream of most Americans.

    All he can do is attempt to ride out the storm until the Rs stumble or make an unforced error.

    Sure, they will get a lot of mileage out of Ryan’s plan and Perry’s conservativism. Heck, Perry is a Bush clone, in terms of life story.

    This will be another close election, but I’d much rather be the R than the D, in this cycle.

  • David hoffman

    President Obama doesn’t mind being confrontational himself. His problem is that he is not used to and does not like opposition to his policies or to himself personally. I’ve noticed that he tends to overreact to criticism, which is not good in a president since it elevates the stature of his critics.

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