TPM Reader TT responds to “Are You In?”
Like a lot of liberal Democrats I am at times completely baffled by President Obama’s passivity when it comes to defending his presidency. Notwithstanding my very real disappointment with his record on civil liberties, the lack of any serious effort to bring accountability to Wall Street, the pointless search for a “Grand Bargain” (which Republicans will abandon anyway the microsecond they get the chance), and expanding the war in Afghanistan, he really has put a hell of a lot of points up on the scoreboard against sustained and at times staggeringly vicious opposition.
There’s the Affordable Care Act, taking out bin Laden, the Lily Ledbetter Act, repeal of DADT, ending the war in Iraq, the START treaty, Dodd-Frank, and the American Recovery Act (whose giant implications for the future of U.S. infrastructure and economic growth remain barely understood). Impressive and in many ways unprecedented stuff.
These are real, concrete accomplishments. But I think what continually gets so many of the President’s supporters down is not that he refuses to own them (I’m sure he’s very proud of all he’s done), it’s that he won’t come out and offer a rousing, barn-burning, and above all, unequivocally moral justification and defense of his record. We saw this at the convention, where a radiant First Lady, a passionate Deval Patrick, and, most famously, a spectacular Bill Clinton each did a tremendous job of highlighting all that the President has accomplished for our country in just four short years and against long odds. All three of them hit home runs. And then the President, batting cleanup, hits a soft fly to shallow center to end the inning. We then saw it during the debate, where he evidently preferred being professorial and aloof over being animated, alive, and willing to defend himself and his record against a genuinely shocking liar, to explain to the American people the awfulness of what he inherited from his predecessor and his predecessor’s party, how his opponent wanted to see a major part of our economy “go bankrupt” in the middle of an economic freefall, and how his opponent will not just take us right back to everything that caused this giant mess in the first place but is suddenly denying with all of his might the very campaign platform he’s running on.
Now believe me, I’m not going to psychoanalyze the man. I’m not going to sit here and speculate about how he’s tired of being president, wants out, wants to go write books, has been ground to dust by the job (the job would grind God Himself to dust). No, all I’m interested in knowing is why should President Obama’s supporters stand up for him when he seems completely unwilling to stand up for himself. I read the post-debate report in the NYT about how he was alternately engaged and listless in the days leading up to it, about how he considers debates to be worthless media constructions that accomplish nothing, embodiments of all the dumb nitty gritty and folderol that obsesses Washington political reporters. On the latter he’s probably right. Maybe because he set out to change not just policy but poltics itself he’s a little disappointed that politics prefers to change whenever it damn well pleases. I don’t know. However, what I do know is that, to paraphrase the old saying, President Obama may not be interested in the manic, media-driven, horse-race, gossip-obsessed, cable shout-fest style of politics we unfortunately practice in this country. But that style of politics is definitely interested in him. And will remain so until November 6th. At least.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.