“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 Politico.com. 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.