Wednesday, August 11, 2010

White House unloads anger over criticism from 'professional left’

Oh dear. It appears as if Robert Gibbs has lost the bloody plot.

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

I have heard some people say that Obama, especially when it comes to national security, is continuing to embrace some of the policies which George W. Bush controversially put into place, but I have honestly not yet come across anyone who would argue that Obama is "like George Bush". That would be a crazy notion, but it's not one which many on the left are putting forward.

The difference here, I think, is that Bush enjoyed an almost reverential support from the right. There appeared to be swathes of political commentators who saw their job as to defend his every action, even when he clearly entered areas of illegality.

I think it rather healthy that the left hold Obama to a higher standard. That we do not, on the whole, see ourselves as his defenders. Rather, it appears to me, that we applaud him when we agree with his policies and point out those places where we are not in agreement. That's a good thing, not that Gibbs sees it that way.
The lack of appreciation or recognition for what Obama has accomplished has left Gibbs and others in furious disbelief.
Glen Greenwald points out that there are other places where Gibbs' rage could be more gainfully employed:
Perhaps one day the White House can work itself up to express this sort of sputtering rage against the Right, or the Wall Street thieves who destroyed the American economy, or the permanent factions that control Washington. Until then, we'll have to satisfy ourselves with White House explanations that the Real Culprits are not (of course) them, but the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything.
The left agrees when Obama does something they like and disagree when he doesn't. That, to me, makes perfect sense.

I understand, on some level, what Gibbs is saying. Washington is hard and compromises have to be made. And it is true that Obama has made advancements in areas like healthcare which were only achieved after a bloody fight with the Republicans. And I, and others on the left, applauded him for managing to bring about the change which he did.

But, likewise, the healthcare bill still lacks a public option. So, obviously, many on the left were disappointed with that. However, it is still possible to applaud Obama's achievement whilst wishing for more.

Indeed, that is the very way that social advancements are achieved. Women's rights, black rights, gay rights have always been established incrementally. They are never handed down wrapped in a big ribbon.

And the fact that people want more does not automatically mean that they do not appreciate Obama's efforts or where he has managed to get them to.

They simply want to go further. And that's no bad thing. Indeed, that wish for "change" is one that Obama rode all the way to the White House.


The point Olbermann makes here is not very different from the point I was trying to make, except - as always - he makes it much more eloquently.
The authoritarian mindset of the right wing base demands fealty, even when undeserved. Their brains will turn themselves into logic pretzels to rationalize away anything that undermines that loyalty. The left, however, has no such need to compartmentalize and rationalize. We can appreciate the job that Obama has done and yet still wish it to be more progressive simultaneously.
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