White House unloads anger over criticism by ‘professional left’ By Sam Youngman - 08/10/10 06:00 AM ET
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.”
Gibbs’s tough comments reflect frustration and some bafflement from the White House, which believes it has done a lot for the left.
In just over 18 months in office, Obama has passed healthcare reform, financial regulatory reform and fair-pay legislation for women, among other bills near and dear to liberals.
Obama is also overseeing the end of the Iraq war, with the U.S. on schedule to end its combat operations by the end of this month.
He’s also added diversity to the Supreme Court by nominating two female justices, including the court’s first Hispanic. Yet some liberal groups have criticized his nominees for not being liberal enough.
Larry Berman, an expert on the presidency and a political science professor at the University of California-Davis, said he has been surprised that liberals aren’t more cognizant of the pragmatism Obama has had to employ to pass landmark reforms.
“The irony, of course, is that Gibbs’s frustration reflects the fact that the conservative opposition has been so effective at undermining the president’s popular approval,” Berman said.
“And from Gibbs’s perspective, and the White House perspective, they ought to be able to catch a break from people who, in their view, should be grateful and appreciative.”
4. I'm concerned that a 15 year prisoner who was tortured and threatened
with death by gang rape is being tried for murder by a kangaroo kourt in gitmo seven years later, and his 'confession' is not considered tainted because 'interrogator1', who was later convicted of acts including threatening death by gang rape, was not the interrogator who took the confession, it was instead his buddy 'interrogator2'.
18. What I WAS hoping for was someone who would take advantage of a singular moment in
American politics and make major progress on a multitude of issues. That obviously did not happen.
What I am now hoping for is that the Dems hold onto majorities so that they can prevent the worse damage that would result from a puke takeover. I have no illusions that this (or another) Obama administration will do much to fix things.
I will give him credit for not vetoing Lily Ledbetter. But the other "victories" that Gibbs cites (health insurance and financial regulation) are dismal failures by any minimal standard one sets for real progress.
But, hey. It's only been (insert appropriate time frame here) and he could... Nah. Ain't gonna happen. The writing is on the wall. We were fooled, again.
As for me "sincerely hoping for" this failure that we are witnessing - that is bullshit. Those of us who have dared to question the administration want progress. I would say that we want it more than those who dare not criticize Obama and the Dems in DC. We are not willing to settle for virtually meaningless crumbs that are swept onto the floor from the feast of corporatist gluttony that continues under this "radical leftist."
100% opposition from the right, and a house and senate with their own issues is a huge challenge. I didn't expect miracles overnight. I'm glad they are realizing that the loudest voices do not speak for the entire base.
22. I don't consider what he passed 'healthcare reform' - it was health INSURANCE reform.
Edited on Tue Aug-10-10 07:58 AM by Triana
...the White House even changed the labelling THEMSELVES.
1. Health INSURANCE is not Health CARE.
2. Until and unless THE PROBLEM in health care is eliminated (ie: the insurance companies and the corprat gangster for-profit nature of HEALTH CARE) then it is NOT reform! YES - SINGLE PAYER is the ONLY way it can be called REFORM. Sorry Obama White House! MEDICARE FOR ALL!
1. WALL STREET (the gangsters who got us into this goddamned mess) WROTE IT. 'Nuff said. It wasn't acceptable for 'energy policy' to be written by Exxon-Mobil and other oil, gas and coal companies and it is NOT acceptable for Wall Street to write "financial reform" such that is so watered down and milquetoasted that it's entirely ineffective - especially "financial reform" that doesn't even kick in for 5-10 years.
No complaints on the justices - good job!
I don't want 'PRAGMATISM' - I want a progressive President who DOES what he SAID he'd do and who is too smart to be railroaded by Republicans or corprat gangster criminals and their lobbyists.
Hello? Nobody home....Jeebus Keerist on a damn pogo stick.
84. medicare ought to be paying for health CARE not for-profit 'insurance'
Edited on Tue Aug-10-10 09:55 AM by Triana
For-profit INSURANCE should have no role. But it does, and drives the cost WAY up. THAT is the problem.
Of course 'no one up there' cares what I/we consider it. Gotcha.
But if you're stating that YOU don't care what I consider it and that no one else here on DU cares what I consider it (ie: "no one" includes YOU, them and everyone else) - I have the same thing to say to you that I have to say to Gibbs. Suck elephant balls, Mister! :hi:
I have the same right to type out my opinions here on this political/economic issue as you and anyone else here. Ya verbal bitchslapping won't stop me, or probably anyone else whose opinion you might devalue or disagree with. Get used to it.
93. So you are discussing one funding mechanism over another.
I'd love to have a single payer system in this country. Regardless, utilizing one funding mechanism over another does not lessen the fact that its all about increasing access to a mechanism allows people to pay for treatment, also known as healthcare. If you are reforming the funding mechanisms, then you are reforming healthcare. Thats what the whole fight has always been about.
If you want to play the word game and separate insurance for healthcare from actual healthcare itself, then I say to you that our healthCARE system in this country is pretty damn good in that we have great doctors, great hospitals and other great people with great training serving as caretakers. The problem is giving people a way to pay for those great services so that they have access to them.
because it doesn't equate with the outrage they are trying to hard to pursue and pass along.
Health Care in the country is not broken....we have great facilities, equipment and doctors! The funding, payment, premium costs, incentives for shareholder savings, mechanism was broken. So all the poutage about insurance and trying to say the healthcare is where the change really needed to occur is misleading in the least....up there with 'death panels'.
99. Yes, the goal of single payer and the goal of a public/private hybrid are the same...
A single payer system just happens to be the more superior, more efficient alternative, mainly because private industry tends to taint things more than government does (both can taint things quite a bit in either event). If someone wants to argue that they are unhappy with the approach this particular healthcare bill took in order to reach the goal, I'm perfectly fine with that. In my view, its the only approach that was passable right now, so thats the one we took. But its fine to not like that approach. My problem is when people start distorting the goal with vague netroots buzzwords and catchphrases as a means to attack the bill. And thats exactly what these people that are doing the whole "its health insurance reform, not healthcare reform" are accomplishing.
31. He's absolutely correct. This is the bullshit coming from the
Edited on Tue Aug-10-10 08:31 AM by ProSense
professional left, Matt Taibbi, from his article linked to here and an excerpt here.
"Wall Street's Big Win: Finance reform won't stop the high-risk gambling that wrecked the economy - and Republicans aren't the only ones to blame"
"It's not that there's nothing good in the bill. In fact, there are many good things in it, even some historic things."
"All of this is great, but taken together, these reforms fail to address even a tenth of the real problem. Worse: They fail to even define what the real problem is.
"Without the Volcker rule and the Lincoln rule, the final version of finance reform is like treating the opportunistic symptoms of AIDS without taking on the virus itself."
"It's a hack job, a C-minus effort. See you at the next financial crisis."
Yeah, it has some good, historic things, but Wall Street wins big and it's like "treating the opportunistic symptoms of AIDS without taking on the virus itself."
It's "historic" and a "hack job."
Where the hell did constructive criticism go to? Where are the articles pointing out where improvements can be made without trying to portray the President as the worst sellout in history? All that Taibbi and others are doing is spending all their energy trying to mischaracterize everything the President has done. They throw in a few backhanded compliments to come to the conclusion that the policies suck.
It's one thing to feel compelled to criticize the President, and another thing entirely to continue attacking people for not doing so. It's become sport to ridicule people when they dare to highlight the positive things that are being done because it interrupts the ridiculous meme that Obama = Bush.
118. Your definition includes (a) occupation, (b) livelihood, (c) gain.
To your average person, "profession" means a paid job.
The definition you quote seems to back this up... unless you mean "professional leftists" are out for "gain" -- and by "gain" you mean things like health care or jobs.
I won't argue any more on this semantic issue -- I'm a recovering English major. But I will ask you, Wyldwolf, do you really intend to be defending Gibbs' pre-election slap to Obama's progressive constituents?
...The Pentagon didn't exist until 1943. World War II was 3/4 of the way done by then, and there have no legitimate wars since 1945. So clearly, the Pentagon was not required for defending the United States of America, was it?
Of course a true discussion of the corruption of the "defense" industry involves a lot more than one huge ugly assed Satanically shaped building.
Gibbs knows the criticism is valid, and he knows that it's a lie to say the critics are saying Obama is the same as Bush. He is saying these things for some kind of political purpose, some kind of triangulating strategy. It's the famous n-dimensional chess.
Many offered by those on the left are not. And some on the left have absolutely compared Obama to Bush with regards to certain policy positions (war, privacy, "corporatism", social security reform, education, etc).
That's not to say Gibbs' comments were not trotted out to satisfy a political purpose... At the very least, he had to know they would create the dust-up we're witnessing right now. If not, then he is indeed ... a fool.
64. You know, Dems need to stick together at this stage
Edited on Tue Aug-10-10 09:15 AM by Rosa Luxemburg
Obama would do better if he was President of Sweden, we know. The USA is a rabid, right leaning, people-unfriendly country controlled by corporations. I think people do have to be realistic with what we have here. I think Gibbs is reminding us that this is America.
However, revolutions do happen in countries from time to time.....
69. Professional Lefties Remind Me of Al Davis, Owner of the Raiders
Yes, this will be a football analogy. If you don't like it, move on.
Al Davis' offensive philosophy is to always throw the ball deep. Just heave it down the field on every play. No matter what. No matter that a receiver in the flat could be open. No matter that short passing games move the ball down the field much more effectively. No, just throw the bomb on every play. Doing this, makes your offense predictable, and your team will lose.
Professional Lefties want Obama to go for it all on every play. Nationalize the banks. Get rid of for profit health care. Take on big pharma. Put BP execs in jail and nationalize BP. Nationalize the auto industry and guarantee union paying jobs. Just throw the ball deep on every play. And, if he did, he'd get the same results as Al Davis' Oaklan Raiders.
121. But, you can bash liberals all day and night and expect us to just sit back and take it?
Liberals have been the most loyal in the party. We are the ones constantly being told to sit down and shut up. And yet, the polls suggest that we STILL come back for more.
Look, I totally understand that the Left cannot get everything it wants, and that the political climate is hostile in every way. But, does that mean that we deserve the constant bashing and belittling?
122. You know what I'm talking about. The administration never asks the conservatives
and corporatists in the party to compromise. The liberals are *always* expected to do so. I knew that Obama wasn't a liberal and that didn't bother me because I could not support Hillary. But I thought that he would at least have the "cajones" to stand up and fight against the Republicans and conservative Democrats. All he does is cave to them. It's disgusting.
115. He's not right because it's not just the "far left"
This is the same attempt at conflation we've seen here on the site. Characterize legitimate, intelligent, well-intentioned criticism as being nothing but mindless extremism, and then condemn it.
Doesn't fly here, and it doesn't ring true for Gibbs either. If you want to single out a specific criticism that's overreaching, that's fine, but there's a lot more criticism out there, that deserves a lot more consideration from the administration, than a few supposed extremists holding out for "Canadian healthcare." Which, by the way, is hardly a radical idea, given that so-called socialized medicine is the norm in industrialized Western democracies.
The way to address criticism is to address it, and no one's buying the story that it's a few lefty cranks ruining it for everyone. If that were true, we wouldn't be seeing this level of fear (and therefore rage) from the White House, or here on DU.
after he rightly pointed out that Clinton had not succeeded in changing the political rhetoric or political trajectory in the US from the entrenched Reagan ideology.
I did expect to see much more progress from Obama on this very important front.
What have we seen instead? On most issues, essentially the same failed approaches that Clinton used - groveling before the Reaganistas for crumbs of little consequence that will not succeed in reversing the ever rightward moving ideological course we seem to be locked into.
Indeed, the predominant political rhetoric and trajectory seems to have moved much further to the right, and at mind boggling speed, since Jan 20, 2009, than at any time during my life.
Obama may be changing a few things here and there behind the scenes, bureaucratically. The problem is, that just as with Clinton's surpluses and success in starting to pay down the national debt, which he failed to have codified, small liberalizing adjustments in federal agency rules and operations can, in one fell swoop, be easily undone by the next asshole right winger who manages to get himself into the White House.
Reaganism changed the country from being liberal and became entrenched because he and his cohorts extolled the "virtues of conservatism." Even though there aren't any. They accomplished this in a country that had outright scorned and rejected conservatism for decades, exemplified by the landslide of LBJ over Goldwater just 16 years previously. Goldwater was rejected because people feared he was too conservative - today he would be called a leftist by the predominant political community of pols and pundits.
Obama and cohorts bash liberalism. How are we going to change things if our "leaders" bash us and what we stand for?
Since Obama had articulated the Clinton failure, I did not expect to see him do the same thing! I did expect to see him make more progress and put much more effort into changing the ideological trajectory away from the right wing cliff.
Of late it does "feel" like that there are a lot of petulant, spoiled, children demanding personal issue items be resolved their way, on their time table and nothing else is acceptable. So many of those fail to recognize anything at all that has been done to move the Country forward.
103. Ouch. Embarrassing. He comes off so petulant and defensive
If he actually said that, Gibby must have been having a bad day. Either way, the administration needs to get a handle on its response to criticism. Calling people retards and druggies instead of responding intelligently makes them look small. Ironically, awkward, off-the-cuff attempts at sarcasm were the way Bush tried to deal with critical press. And he was laughed at.
The WH should simply focus on the facts, make their case for what they've done right, and calmly and firmly correct the record when someone's making false accusations. If someone somewhere claimed President Obama was "just like Bush," Gibby could point out that specific instance and either correct it or laugh at it. Or ignore it, because there's just not that much of that going on, and what the "professional left" is writing about has a lot more meat on the bone then calling Obama a Bush clone would.
The smart thing to do would be to acknowledge and show some concern for the frustration coming from the left. These people aren't the enemy, and firing broadsides at "the professional left" sounds like Fox News.
I assume this was just another undisciplined moment like Rahm's. If not, and there is a strategy here to disparage the left and the right equally, it's a bad one. Getting snippy just makes the administration look defensive and panicky, and gives weight to the notion that left is in disarray and that Obama has a growing approval problem.
112. Which makes an attack on liberals all the more self-destructive
... given that the overall approval is at its lowest point yet. So, it's liberals and pretty much only liberals, upon which the administration depends. So in calling them crazed druggies for daring to criticize, Mr. Gibbs is busily sawing off the bottom of the wobbly ladder the administration is standing on. You'd think an 80% rating with liberals vs. a 41% rating generally would make the administration more open to hearing the concerns of liberals, not contemptuous of it.
117. "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.”
Trying to say Gibbs was only attacking a tiny portion of the "extreme" left is disingenuous. His comment mischaracterizes the nature of the "professional left"'s criticism of the administration, which has a lot more substance than simple name-calling. We've seen the same conflation fallacy employed here on the site, where thoughtful, substantive criticism, as well as minor, faintly Obama-related, or humorous points, like cartoons, or the situation in the Gulf, is pounced upon with this same strawman argument.
Are Mr. Obama's critics on "the professional left" actually insisting on the elimination of the Pentagon? This is a strawman argument, just like conflating all criticism with simply "calling" Mr. Obama "the same" as Bush. It paints a false picture of what the criticism is, and then attempts to dismiss it on that basis. It's the definition of a bad-faith argument.
"The professional left" is not merely composed of people mindlessly equating President Obama with Bush. At the same time, there are very legitimate comparisons to be made on policy issues such as GITMO, DADT, targeted assassination, wire tapping, State Secrets, etc., which are neither thoughtless nor unfair, and do not come from "crazy" people who are on "drugs."
If that were the case, it would not be an issue, because such minor and extreme points of view are of no consequence. The fact is that a substantial segment of intelligent, well-intentioned liberals have substantial, meaningful criticisms which should be addressed honestly, rather than painted as the childish rantings of drug-crazed hippies and dismissed with contempt.
Again, not smart. As your polling information suggests, it is really only liberals who support the administration at this point. Insulting and dismissing their concerns is neither good policy nor good politics.
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