The Washington Post has an article about how Democratic activists have found Obama to be an unsympathetic, whining, “Well, what do you want ME to do about it?” useless, all-about-him president when they go to him with problems.
To say this portrait of the president is unflattering would be an understatement. I hate to blame the victims but you should have seen this coming for all of the reasons we have tried to point out in the past four years. Still, some of the examples of interactions with Obama have been downright pitiless. Take this exchange that Obama has had with immigration activists who have been alarmed by the step-up of deportations under Obama:
Bhargava, 43, an Indian American who came to the United States as a child, had spent much of 2008 registering minority voters. The rise of a fellow community organizer, a black man, delivered to office on the shoulders of a new ethnic coalition, “hit me on so many levels,” Bhargava would later recall.
So it was an uncomfortable moment when Bhargava looked in Obama’s eyes and told him that he was presiding over a “moral catastrophe” in immigrant communities. He asked Obama to use executive powers to stop many deportations, said it was time to “lean in” on revamping the country’s immigration system and listed a number of Republican senators he should lobby.
The president grew visibly frustrated as each successive advocate spoke. He said that the advocates, too, should be pressing Republican lawmakers, that he sympathized with their concerns but that he did not have the legal authority to stop deportations.
Tensions mounted when Obama argued that his administration’s policy was to focus on deporting criminals and others deemed to be security threats.
“No, Mr. President, that’s not what’s happening,” interjected Angelica Salas, the head of the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. She was seated directly across the table from Obama and leaned toward him as she spoke, her hands trembling and her voice rising. “You’re deporting heads of households, mothers and fathers.” She said that “young people are sitting in detention centers when they should be sitting in the best universities in the country,” according to meeting participants.
Obama looked taken aback by the direct confrontation from Salas and then turned to aides seated against the wall, according to several participants. The aides affirmed that, yes, criminals were the priority.
Turning back to Salas, Obama asked: “What do you want me to do, not enforce the law?” He explained that he could not just ignore laws he didn’t like.
The president spoke sternly. Several participants described him as defensive. One person said that, at times, Obama was “pissy.”
How about working to *change* the law so that it didn’t rip families apart, impoverish children and turn them into vulnerable international orphans? Just a suggestion.
The funny thing is that this article highlights his interactions with immigration and gay rights activists. It says nothing about women’s groups, which makes me wonder if they were even able to get a meeting or were so discouraged that they didn’t even try. Isn’t it weird how in this year on the “War on Women” that womens’ advocacy groups are so invisible? I’m telling you, it’s downright creepy.
There is a danger for the party to look like it’s tied too closely with special interest groups but working people, who the White House blew off earlier this week, and women, who it has always blown off, are NOT special interest groups. The debacle in Wisconsin is particularly striking. The White House, in fear of looking like it was sitting next to the dweebs at the loser lunch table, left labor to twist in the wind. The worst thing that Obama did with respect to Wisconsin wasn’t that he avoided the state. It was that he made no attempt to argue in any speech to the state or the nation about how important it was to the future of the country, economy and all working people that labor was respected, protected and championed. There is a very good argument to be made there and Obama did not make it. Bill Clinton, who went to Wisconsin, had to do this. The 99% need to remember this because the differences between how the two presidents stand up for labor couldn’t be more illuminating.
But that doesn’t mean that the president isn’t passionate about things:
The Barack Obama who spars with liberals in private seems far different from the man most Americans have come to know for his even-keeled, cerebral presence. He drops the formalities of his position and the familiar rhetoric of his speeches, revealing a president willing to speak personally and candidly to his allies, and also one who can be thin-skinned, irritable, even sarcastic and hectoring if his motives or tactics are questioned. He talks about his own ethnicity, his immigrant roots, his political high wire as a black president with a Muslim middle name — and then seems surprised when advocates who took deep inspiration from his election nevertheless question his commitment to their causes.
Awwww, the poor man. It’s really hard to be half African America son of an immigrant with a funny middle name who is the most powerful person of the free world. He gets picked on. These activists, it’s all about them. They have no idea how hard it is to be Obama. First he campaigns as the first post-racial, post-partisan president and then people put unrealistic expectations on him to actually live up to his soaring, aspirational campaign rhetoric.
I think the people spoke in 2008. They were willing to give Obama a chance to rise above his humble means, his prep school background and Harvard pedigree, and lead and they were willing to do this because he ran as the Democrat and once upon a time, that meant something. Now, it seems like he didn’t really mean any of what he said. Either that or he’s not really all that into you, activists, and he’s falling back on being the aggrieved party to get you to back off. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll just be mean and pissy, reverting back to his “Can I just eat my waffles?!?” personality that was conveniently overlooked in 2008 by the very same groups he captured.
This is not a new Obama, it’s the same guy. But the smoke has cleared now. He got away with sidelining the activists in 2008 and now in 2012, they’re frustrated. Well, no one held him accountable before the 2008 election or asked him to show them his policies. He didn’t need policies back then because anyone who questioned Obama’s readiness, commitment or preparation was automatically bludgeoned with the “racists!” sledgehammer. They were all supposed to “Hang on a second, sweetie.” while he schmoozed them.
Of course, it isn’t too late to hold him accountable before he gets the nomination in September. He’s not the only game in town and there are real politicians out there with actual policy plans that would make suitable substitutes. The question is, do the various factions of the Democratic party have the courage to demand satisfaction?
You can’t complain later if he blows you off next year if you do nothing this year. And you can’t complain if he gets booted out of office because the general public is disgusted with the excuses while their lives are being ruined.
No one is forcing him to take four more years of abuse and name calling. If he really doesn’t want to deal with those people, ie his base, he can always join the speech circuit, or become the new CEO of Pfizer and hasten its demise. There are options. He shouldn’t worry about disappointing us if he decides not to stick it out and yields the spot to a better Democrat. We’ll understand.
The infamous “sweetie” clip looks completely different to the party activists this year, doesn’t it?