Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Check Is In The Mail

Watching this cozy exchange between Moore and Olberman, I began wondering just what audience Robert Gibbs thought he was addressing when he threw his tantrum for The Hill. Was it the Beltway, the Democratic insiders known as the Village? If so, they approved: the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, for example, wrote that "Gibbs has, in the space of just a few weeks, twice committed the unforgivable sin for a White House press secretary: He has carelessly spoken the truth." (Oh, not "carelessly," Dana -- Gibbs surely knew what he was doing.) When asked whether he had any response to Olbermann, "'I was watching my BlackBerry for primary returns and watching the Braves game on the Internet,' the press secretary replied.

"Ouch. This is not going to play well at Professional Left global headquarters in New York." Ah yes, all them New York Jews, hating on the only President we've got. There's something touching about the pretense that New York is the metropole and Washington DC is a hayseed backwater, the real America. But then, as FAIR's Peter Hart pointed out, Milbank's a longtime Obama booster. But contrary to Milbank, I'm not waiting for an apology from the White House; I never expected one.

On the other hand, I think Moore is fundamentally wrong here. Is the White House "frightened" about the November elections? Maybe so, but I don't think they believe that their slipping numbers are their fault. Of course they blame the cable news networks, those strongholds of the Left. (Like Rachel Maddow, who helped the President toot his own horn at Netroots nation last month.) And if the Republicans make any gains in November, they'll be protesting to the corporate media that they did so resist the Left and move diligently to the center! They did their best! Don't blame them! And for the people who matter, their best was good enough -- remember, profits are up 41 percent since Obama took office.

Take that bit about 2 minutes in where Moore says, "We're frightened about it too, because the last thing any of us want to have happen is for the Republicans to come back in any form of power." I'm not a professional leftist, alas -- as Alexander Cockburn's father used to say ruefully, "Where is that Moscow money? We could use it" -- but as far as I can tell, the Republicans never left power. Obama catered to them from the get-go, and has mostly continued their policies, even allowing some of their people to keep on doing damage in their old jobs. He protected even those who were out of office from any accountability for their crimes, and has gone further than even they did in the abuse of power. Even his actual attempts at change, like the stimulus bill, were half-hearted, full of compromises with the Republicans. Though they no longer controlled Congress or the White House, Obama gave them the veto over his actions.

"I just didn't understand why that was the first thing out of his mouth, was that Canadian health care was the big thing they're worried about." I guess the single-payer advocates managed to irk Obama after all, even if they couldn't budge him from his determination to sell out to the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. That Gibbs was so enraged by it shows how hysterically right-wing the Obama administration really is. Whatever else you can say about it, Canadian health care is not a radical-left system.

"The hard-core base is gonna show up in November, and they're gonna vote for the Democrats, regardless of all this hoo-ha that's going on. The problem, and they know this from their own polling, is that next large group of people, that go to the soft middle, that voted for Obama but are no longer enthused and excited ... and those people aren't going to vote for Republicans either -- they're just gonna stay home. And that's the biggest fear, that people will just stay home in November, and Republicans may take power again in the House or the Senate." Again, "take power"? The Republicans never lost power. Moore may well be right about the "soft middle" -- only time will tell -- and it's true that many liberals are still bravely supporting him; that's what liberals do, they talk a hard line and then cave in. (Milbank says that, when asked if "progressives" would stay home in November, Gibbs replied, "I don't think they will.") But Obama's hard-core base is his big corporate donors -- Wall Street, the insurance companies, Big Pharma, and so on. (Some call them the elites...) As I've said before, Obama and the Democrats don't want my vote, and won't miss it.

"So the ball's in their court ... Nobody wants to go back to the old days, so Gibbs is right: we're all on the same team here, and we'd better start with a better game plan than the one they've been using for the last eighteen months or so." Are "we" all on the same team? You couldn't prove it by me. Gibbs and his master are indeed on the same team as the corporatists, and would like to be on the same team as the Republicans, but they're not on the same team as most voters. While the people at the top are enjoying an economic recovery, "half of American workers have suffered a job loss or a cut in hours or wages over the past 30 months." If American workers were on the same team as the White House, Obama would have worked a little harder for their interests.

It's not unusual for Presidents to lose touch with the country, if by "the country" you understand, as I do, the mass of the population rather than the political and media elites. Obama would have had to work very hard to do otherwise, and judging from his days as a "community organizer" as he reported them in his first book, he never had the common touch, never really identified with the people he was supposedly organizing. I'm not sure how a President would go about schmoozing with ordinary people after he takes office -- the Secret Service would go nuts. He could have appointed some people from the actual Left, such as it is, as advisors even if he couldn't give them real positions of power; they could have told him things he urgently needed to know. But he preferred to play golf with big-donor CEOs. So be it; Obama has made his choices, let him live with the consequences. They're not likely to be severe, for him.