Is there a grand leftwing conspiracy harassing President Obama? Maybe, according to a report by NBC news.
John Harwood, CNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent, reports that the White House is unconcerned with "the Left." Harwood, responding to a question regarding yesterday's GLBT rights march in Washington, explains that Obama is "doing well with 90% of Democrats" and that the White House views "this opposition" as part of the "Internet Left fringe."
Harwood also reports that one White House "advisor" told him that "those bloggers need to take off the pajamas, get dressed, and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult." I have several responses.
First, it is unclear whether the White House advisor used the "Internet Left Fringe" language, but it definitely clear that someone in the White House believes that the Left is merely a political irritant.
Second, it is unclear whether the "fringe" language was directed towards GLBT protesters alone or to the Left as a whole, but many bloggers have interpreted this as a slight to GLBT demonstrators. [Update: Harwood says that the phrase describes the "grumbling" Left in general.]
Third, the "pajamas" language is absolutely bankrupt and really demonstrates how "elite," "out of touch" and smug some politicos are. The "demeaning your critics" card is an old and pathetic approach to debate.
Fourth, the belief that Obama would do something extraordinary for progressives actually got him elected, in part. So, it is extremely ironic for this unnamed White House source to dismiss Leftists as pajamas-clad imbeciles.
Fifth, I am a proud member of the Internet Left Fringe (if that means "progressive critic of Obama"), but I never put much stock in the sweeping liberal rhetoric that surrounded Obama's election. I agreed with Hillary Clinton who said that "you campaign in poetry but govern in prose." I said a long time ago that the liberal euphoria surrounding Obama's candidacy was misguided and that Obama was going to govern from the center because the country was politically divided and that he was a moderate -- at best.
Nonetheless, I have always argued that progressives must push President Obama to implement progressive policies (which involves more than speeches). The history of progressive change in this country has always involved progressive social movements pushing moderate presidents and other politicians for liberal policies. The White House official's comments demonstrate a gross misunderstanding of history.
The comments also contradict the nation's current political climate. On some issues, like Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a majority of Americans support the "liberal" outcome (repealing the discriminatory policy). So, by remaining sluggish on this deficit-neutral policy, Obama is catering to military brass, not to the public at large. Of course, a fight with the military brass could erode some of Obama's public support, but this does not mean that GLBT people who want an end to discrimination are fringe elements. Instead, we are simply reminding President Obama what he said before he was elected and issuing him a "call for action."
Here is the NBC footage, courtesy of YouTube: