A week ago I chose to mark my return to this blog by taking exception to a trend that seemed to be emanating from leading voices in the Progressive movement. In this case I was referring to Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher calling out the President for his antagonistic comments directed at his base during a Connecticut fundraiser. I have to admit now that in that post I was just getting my feet wet again and had not paid extremely close attention to all of the issues leading up to this moment. Issues that taken in full context explain the resentment and dissatisfaction.
Today another leading Progressive voice and one I also greatly respect and have paid close attention to going back to my early days of blogging, Peter Daou (formerly of The Daou Report), did the hard work in laying out the case for this Liberal revolt against the President.
With each passing day, I’m beginning to realize that the crux of the problem for Obama is a handful of prominent progressive bloggers, among them Glenn Greenwald, John Aravosis, Digby, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher. (Jane, who has been a friend for years, has become an increasingly controversial figure and I won’t use this post to litigate the claims for or against her.)
Virtually all the liberal bloggers who have taken a critical stance toward the administration have one thing in common: they place principle above party. Their complaints are exactly the same complaints they lodged against the Bush administration. Contrary to the straw man posed by Obama supporters, they aren’t complaining about pie in the sky wishes but about tangible acts and omissions, from Gitmo to Afghanistan to the environment to gay rights to secrecy and executive power.
The essence of their critique is that the White House lacks a moral compass. The instances where Obama displays a flash of moral authority – the mosque speech comes to mind – these bloggers cheer him with the same fervor as his most ardent fans.
Some will dismiss them as minor players in the wider national discourse, but two things make them a thorn in the administration’s side:
a) they have a disproportionately large influence on the political debate, with numerous readers and followers — among them major media figures
b) they develop the frames and narratives that other progressive Obama critics adopt and disseminate
I’ve argued for some time that the story of Barack Obama’s presidency is the story of how the left turned on him. And it eats him up. You know it from Robert Gibbs, you know it from Rahm Emanuel, you know it from Joe Biden and you know it from Obama himself.
The constant refrain that liberals don’t appreciate the administration’s accomplishments betrays deep frustration. It was a given the right would try to destroy Obama’s presidency. It was a given Republicans would be obstructionists. It was a given the media would run with sensationalist stories. It was a given there would be a natural dip from the euphoric highs of the inauguration. Obama’s team was prepared to ride out the trough(s). But they were not prepared for a determined segment of the left to ignore party and focus on principle, to ignore happy talk and demand accountability.
As president, Obama has done much good and has achieved a number of impressive legislative victories. He is a smart, thoughtful and disciplined man. He has a wonderful family. His staff (many of whom I’ve worked with in past campaigns) are good and decent people trying to improve their country and working tirelessly under extreme stress. But that doesn’t mean progressives should set aside the things they’ve fought for their entire adult life. It doesn’t mean they should stay silent if they think the White House is undermining the progressive cause.
How can one argue with that?
Daou goes on to enumerate the major transgressions that have distanced Obama from those that put him in power and at the top of the list is the targeted killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen believed to have had ties to al-Qaeda. You must read his piece in it’s entirety to get the full picture but suffice to say it is clear and disturbing.
The question this left me thinking is can Obama possibly redeem himself? Even if he were to turn around tomorrow and with the stroke of a pen by Executive Order take away his own power to carry out these acts (which would certainly be a good start) would it be enough to salvage his image with the Left?
Only time will tell but maybe a good beating in November – which appears likely – along with the exit of his heavy, Rahm Emanuel, might offer him the opportunity to begin the process of reconciliation.
One can only hope.