Green Room

Obama Is Losing the Left

posted at 9:33 am on September 1, 2009 by

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

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The problem liberals created for themselves is they chose a high moralist perch to oppose Bush for no other reason than he was not one of them and a rather ineloquent not-one-of-them at that. Alas, life is not lived on a perch but in the mud and grime. Liberals know they are adverse to flexations of power it just has to be their power for their reasons but if they continue this tact they will cement forever the notion that they should not be trusted with power if they cannot use it to protect the very people they pretend to serve. It will be even worse if the country is actually attacked and the inevitable follow-on investigatoin reveals we had one of the operatives in custody but had failed to break him using non-threatening means.

Like it or not war is the art of the lowest common denominator (think Sherman’s march to the sea, better yet read his letter to the leaders of Atlanta); at least Mr Cohen is learning to do the math.

Mr Snuggle Bunny on September 1, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Cohen’s always written about one column a month that avoids the normal liberal talking points, even during the Bush years. The problem is he’s coming at his criticism of Obama from the right (really, the moderate left, but in Obamaworld, that might as well be the political right), while Obama’s core special interests groups and the pundits who mirror them, like Paul Krguman, are launching criticisms of the president from the left of where he is right now.

That puts Obama — or at least his advisors — in a bit of a conundrum. The president is obviously more in tune with the folks on the left, and he’s also shown not one iota of desire to challenge those on the left directly, even when it’s in his best interests. So if the more moderate liberal pundits like Cohen (or David Broder and a few others) start urging him to tack towards the center, who does he listen to? We already know from the Bush years the Angry Left has a collective voice like fingernails on a blackboard when aroused, and having been a man who got where he is by voting ‘present’ on most controversial issues, Obama doesn’t want to deal with that. He’ll live with the GOP and conservatives being angry at him and will fire back at them, because he knows the left’s got his back, but he’s never shown any leadership to go for something that might divide and anger his supporters.

Plus it’s not like it’s his term that’s up in 2010, it’s Harry and Nancy. So my guess is he kicks the can down the road and ignores Cohen et al for as long as possible in hopes groups like ACORN, SEIU and the other (supposed) ad hoc pro-Obama organizations can figure a way to force all of his agenda through despite the opposition of a majority of the public.

jon1979 on September 1, 2009 at 10:11 AM

Right and wrong. Obama is not losing the hard Left. Right now he’s bleeding independents and buyer’s-remorse liberal Republicans, which is bad enough. His conundrum is entailed in his character. Can he be other than what he is, a leftist in disguise? No. Can he dress out the disguise better? Probably. Will people buy it? Maybe.

But, really, what will he do? People usually do what they’ve done before, more or less. Obama has become successful through the stagecraft of seeming reasonable while gathering around him the devices of leftist “organizing” in all their sinuous and vicious means. So it’ll be more of the same — and more and more. Obama is caught up in the tide of a ferocious movement blinded by the vision of its coming and due glory. This is greater than he is — beyond his ability to control even if he wanted to.

The next few years are going to be like nothing America has ever seen.

rrpjr on September 1, 2009 at 10:42 AM