This is rather rich. It wasn’t so long ago, that liberals were being called “f—— retards” by Rahm Emanuel for refusing to get behind the president’s compromises on health care. When they finally did, they were chastised for insufficient enthusiasm for a bill that they were instructed to hold their noses and support. Ditto financial regulation, which, in many respects, is a gift to Wall Street, not Main Street. And environmentalists, labor, and feminists have all received not merely nothing, but genuinely regressive rulings by the administration and told to take it and like it. That’s when it can be bothered to notice that they exist at all. Dana Goldstein’s story on the administration’s gratuitous slap at feminists Friday is just one of an ongoing series.
To be fair, this is how almost all Democrats have governed since the days when Joe McCarthy terrorized the Truman administration. McGeorge “Mac” Bundy knew how to goad Lyndon Johnson deeper into Vietnam by explaining to his eager student that the “Goldwater crowd” was “more numerous, more powerful and more dangerous than the flea bite professors” complaining about the war. Republican presidents traditionally cater to their base or face the punishment. (See “Bush, George H.W.”) Democrats shovel shit in their base’s face and tell them they had better act like they like it or face what Bundy called “the wild men in the wings.” And it usually works…
By now, those smart fellows in the White House must have figured out that however impressive their accomplishments are by historical standards—and they are—they do not come close to offering Democrats a sufficiently popular program to stave off a likely Republican landslide come November, not at least without a radical—miraculous actually—reversal in the current job situation. And yet, it is at least possible that this too was part of the plan, (or at least “Plan B”). After all, they got a great deal done in their first two years, but it was a hard slog. Bill Clinton, who did not manage a fraction of what Obama accomplished in his first two years, saw his political fortunes saved by losing a midterm election and inviting voters to imagine what it would be like to be governed by fire-breathing Newt Gingrich and company. This time, what with the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, and Joe Barton, Obama and company must be salivating at the moment when voters are finally forced to take a good hard look at what Paul Krugman nicely calls the “invincible ignorance” of the alternative. Having handily won re-election in 2012, he might be able to build on the legislative achievements of his first two years to take his place alongside FDR and LBJ in terms of genuinely transforming the way our government works. That’s my theory, anyway.
In the meantime, the mavens of the media are going to continue to make arguments like, “Obama is not responsible for the leak, and, realistically, there was little he could do to expedite the repair. But for an irritable public, the Gulf Coast debacle was a reminder—horribly timed from Obama’s perspective—that Big Business and Big Government are often a problem, not a solution.” The arguments are made, without anyone being able to make any sense whatever of them—except that whatever the hell Obama is doing, it stinks, and he should cut it out right now and do the opposite… whatever that is.