Obama Is Losing the Left
posted at 9:33 am on September 1, 2009 by Howard Portnoy
There is a well-known and time-honored test for determining whether a cake is fully baked: You stick a toothpick in it, and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. So how do you tell if a presidency is done (for) or on the ropes? You look first to the pundits who share more-or-less the same ideology and belong to the same political party. When they flinch or begin to sound like they are writing for the opposition, you may consider that the first minor rupture in the dike. Once breached, a full-out deluge cannot be far off.
Such a pundit is Richard Cohen, who writes on the op-ed pages of the Washington Post and is nationally syndicated. Cohen holds many of the standard opinions of journalists on the left. He supports socialized medicine, backed the Sotomayor confirmation (albeit with qualifications), and dislikes Sarah Palin with a passion. At the same time, Cohen is not as extreme as many of his fellow liberals and is fairer than most. In January of 2008, for example, he chose to write about Obama’s affiliation with Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago and its troublesome connection to über-racist Louis Farrakhan, for which Cohen took heat from his leftist base. In May of this year, he took partisan flak a second time for penning a column titled “What if Cheney’s Right?”
Today Cohen has a column that is sure to make die-hard liberal commentators and the White House cringe. The subject again is the torture debate and the article contains a sentence that will be perceived by the administration as a full-on assault on its position on national security: “No one can possibly believe that America is now safer because of the new restrictions on enhanced interrogation and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor.”
Cohen doesn’t stop at broad generalities. He raises the kinds of hypothetical questions conservatives have been asking ever since the whole torture debate arose several years ago as another excuse for the left having at their then-favorite punching bag, George W. Bush. For example, Cohen asks whether torture — meaning of course enhanced interrogation — “saves lives? What if it saves many lives? What if one of those lives is your child’s?”
Cohen’s column is just a beginning, but look for other liberal writers to follow suit in the months ahead. And as the criticism from the left mounts, look for the White House to do its part to fan the flames of discontent. Obama and his staff have not yet mastered the art of responding to criticism only when it can do serious harm and are, therefore, in the habit of taking on all comers — even the American electorate in the recent town hall debates.
Cross-posted at Zombie Contentions