The One that wasn’t: LEFT REVOKES PRESIDENT OBAMA’S LIBERAL CARD, pouts, ponders replacement MessiahPosted: September 13, 2013
Now many liberals feel sure: Barack Obama was not the one they’d been waiting for.
The man who won the presidency in part due to his opposition to the Iraq War was suddenly leading a charge to use military force against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Republican refusal to go along was to be expected. The liberal backlash, though, was particularly intense.
That came on top of the fears that the president will, for all the current tough rhetoric, again go into the fall political fights about the budget and debt ceiling starting from a position of over-concession.
The White House says he’s still a proud progressive. And, of course, he’ll always be a socialist to the Republican base. To prominent liberals, though, Obama’s center-left, sure. But he’s no liberal.
They applaud a lot of what Obama’s done, which the White House says is clear proof of a man who has stayed true to progressive principles. The federal health care system that spent decades as a Democratic dream will be reality Oct. 1, and there’s never been a president with anything close to Obama’s record on gay and broader civil rights. He got the troops out of Iraq, and he rolled back some of the Bush tax cuts.
But even on these, liberals have long seen a president who has fallen short, cutting deals — like never pushing for single-payer health insurance. Or championing the more modest Dodd-Frank banking reforms instead of a renewed Glass-Steagall Act. They say those moves diluted what they’re supposed to stand for, and what they used to think he stood for.
“I don’t think that anyone at this point would characterize the president as the progressive warrior that the progressive movement is anxious to see,” said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who claimed victory after the new diplomatic efforts that started as he and other Hill liberals resisted the Syria authorization.
Blame Congress, economic reality and resistant Republicans for much of the disappointment.
“The president was the embodiment of the dreams and aspirations of a better country and better future,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), recalling the feeling in the crowd at Obama’s inauguration. “To some extent the person that he’s not is a person that he ultimately could never be.”
But Syria, coming off of a summer of rolling National Security Agency snooping revelations, is all Obama.
Reliable liberal Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were among those who even now remain undecided on authorization. That’s because, according to former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean — there’s no sense in trying to apply 1960s labels to the situation facing the president in 2013.
Dean says the fact that Obama is consisdered a liberal leader is proof of just how far from the actual left the left has gotten.
Obama’s a liberal “not by the old definitions, but by the new definition he is,” said Dean, who supported the Syria strike under the sense that military intervention to stop chemical weapons attacks fits snugly within the larger liberal philosophy of fighting for the expansion of rights.
Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said Obama’s the one responsible for the confusion over what liberal politics means, arguing he’s effectively poisoned the movement by seeming to support it, while actively betraying it.
“House Democratic leaders are content to let the president set the agenda on foreign policy, national security, privacy, the economy, health care, Social Security and workers’ rights,” Kucinich said. “Since the administration has lacked coherency on such a wide range of policies, and since it has wrongly been perceived as liberal from its inception, it has successfully usurped any legitimate liberal agenda.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that any reasonable review of Obama’s record shows a man who’s clearly a progressive and has carried that through his entire presidency.
“President Obama’s record of accomplishment, which includes ending the war in Iraq, passing Obamacare, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, enacting Wall Street reform and eliminating the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, demonstrates his commitment to the values on which he based his historic campaign for the presidency,” Earnest said.
Liberals have long seen the president as a leader who’s fallen short of liberal goals. | AP Photo
Robert Reich, the former Clinton White House Labor secretary and a progressive thinker, broadly compared Obama to President Lyndon B. Johnson, whose Great Society and War on Poverty domestic progressivism was overshadowed at the time by his escalating the Vietnam War.
There’s no taking away from what Obama accomplished on health care, but “the irony is that his foreign policy, including policy toward detention, drones, leakers, newspaper sources,” Reich said, “has not been particularly liberal or progressive. To many people, that makes him less eligible for the progressive mantle.”
Continue ReadingThat, Reich said, is “certainly understandable, but it takes a very narrow and purist view of American politics.”
Obama has repeatedly rejected the logic that his pragmatism makes him anything but a progressive, as when in 2011 he outraged liberals by comparing their need to move to the middle on the budget debate to Abraham Lincoln’s decision to write the Emancipation Proclamation to free only slaves living in the Confederacy, and not Union states.
“This notion that somehow if you’re responsible and you compromise, that somehow you’re giving up your convictions — that’s absolutely not true,” Obama said to applause at an event back in 2011. “I think it’s fair to say that Abraham Lincoln had convictions. But he constantly was making concessions and compromises.”
Still, as he joked in Stockholm last week, he knows he’s not too far out on the spectrum.
“You know, I have to say that if I were here in Europe, I’d probably be considered right in the middle, maybe center-left, maybe center-right, depending on the country,” Obama said at a news conference with the Swedish prime minister. He added, “In the United States, sometimes the names I’m called are quite different.”
The problem isn’t just in the Oval Office. Liberals say they can’t really see many soulmates in Obama’s Cabinet either, especially since John Kerry took over leading the administration’s push on Syria.
Asked to identify liberal leaders, liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas named just two politicians — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). The rest of his list ran from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to sex columnist and LGBT activist Dan Savage to AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka and environmentalist writer Bill McKibben and reproductive rights insta-celebrity Sandra Fluke.
But that is missing the point, Moulitsas said.
“Conservatives need their ‘leaders,’ from their Michele Bachmann types to their media bigwigs like Rush Limbaugh. We never really have,” Moulitsis argued. “We’ve worked on a more grass-roots level. On the negative side, it means we are less cohesive than the Right, on the other hand, it’s more inclusive and ultimately, I’d argue, a more effective way to effect change … in today’s fragmented social-media-driven media world, our grass-roots approach gets the advantage.”
Dean agreed. Liberals are doing just fine, whether they agree with him that Obama’s in their ranks or not.
“We always used to talk about this in the ’60s. In the ‘60s it was all bulls—t: ‘This leaderless movement that was going to come along,’” Dean said. “This is not a leaderless movement, but because of the Internet and the suspicion that young people have of institutions, there really is a generation which is not leaderless, but probably has a real collective leadership for the first time in history.”
- Obama has liberals left waiting (politico.com)
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- Obama: The Self-Parody President (blogsforvictory.com)
- Improv Comedy Group Hilariously Skewers Liberal Worship of Obama (mediaite.com)
- Napolitano: Obama will bomb Syria (mobile.wnd.com)
- Voters Have Obama’s Number, Sort Of (powerlineblog.com)
- Napolitano: Obama will bomb Syria (wnd.com)
- ‘Syria envy’? Activists divided on usefulness of an Obama P.R. blitz (news.yahoo.com)
- The Collapse of the Obama Presidency (punditfromanotherplanet.com)