The trouble with us liberals

Robert Gibbs

Evidently we liberals are like a bunch of whining little children.  No matter how much President Obama does for us, we’re never satisfied.  That’s what I hear from pundits on TV and what I read in off-the-record comments by White House staffers, and now on the record as well.

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 health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as health care reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”


Let’s stipulate, for the sake of argument, that we liberals are a bad lot, and that I myself am the worst of the bunch, and that it is a waste of time to consider what people like me think.  This doesn’t really matter.

What matters is whether President Obama’s program is enough to make a difference to Americans who are out of work, worried about their savings or unable to pay medical bills.  Was the stimulus bill enough to jump-start the economy?  Will the financial reform bill avert another financial meltdown?  Will the health reform bill actually make medical care more affordable and available?

The answers to these questions, as it seems to me, are (1) clearly not, (2) clearly not and (3) it’s hard to tell.  I could be wrong, and, for the sake of my fellow Americans, I hope I am wrong.  In a few years the facts will show, one way or another, who was right.

Obama supporters argue that the stimulus bill, the financial reform bill and the health reform bill may not have been ideal, but they were the best that was possible under the circumstances, with a Republican Party united in opposition and a Democratic Party unable to unite.

There’s something to that.  The Senate Republicans have taken obstruction to new levels.

Cloture motions are a measure of the use of the filibuster to thwart a majority vote.

But I am not disappointed in the Republicans.  They have done what they said they were going to do. They fight for what they believe in by every legal means.  I can’t fault them for that.  They set an example of what a fighting party ought to be.

If President Obama had tried for an adequate stimulus bill and failed, if he had advocated a financial reform bill that limited the size of the “too big to fail” banks, if he had proposed a public health insurance option as he promised during the campaign – then even if he had failed, he would have established a basis for moving forward in the future.

Instead he gave in without a fight.  And he has not made an issue of filibusters and cloture.  Instead he has tried unsuccessfully to appease his opponents.  The only people he’s gotten tough with are his core supporters. The slight progress we’ve made is due mostly to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and especially to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  The “yes, we can” candidate has become the “no, we can’t” President.

President Obama is still the most popular national political figure, and, in the absence of a sane Republican candidate, he may well win reelection in 2012.  But his approach is a losing one in the long run.  If he doesn’t really believe in what he advocates, why should anybody else?

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