Our Surprising Journalistic Power

Even though I as a pro-life blogger know I battle on the right side of history, on a day-to-day basis I sometimes don't feel like a victor. The fight seems so uphill, with money, political power, and MSM all against us.

shirley sherrod.jpgSo the following July 21 Politico story about what bloggers on the Left think of us was enlightening. Every time I get a peek into the other side's view of us I realize once again that they're paper tigers.

Also of note is the Left's view that Obama has clipped his agenda thanks to us, when we think his actions thus far demonstrate he is the most liberally radical president ever.

The piece's impetus is the Shirley Sherrod debacle....

But this week's forced resignation of a previously obscure Agriculture Dept. employee is just the latest example of Obama officials reacting to a cable news-driven obsession of the right.

It not only infuriates Obama's liberal base, which feels like the episodes just reinforce the power of the right to push a damaging story into the mainstream press....

But as this week shows, the White House's touchiness even threatens Obama's ability to keep control of his own public persona, or steer the national conversation in a way that's conducive to promoting his message and his agenda....

On Wednesday, liberals... lamented how the same president who broke so many conventional rules as a candidate was now bowing to the same forces on the right that have tormented Democrats for years.

"Now that the full video is out there, and Sherrod's version of events is vindicated, Obama looks foolish, impulsive and reactive," said Jane Hamsher, a prominent liberal blogger and frequent Obama critic....

"They desperately want to be liked by the right, and this pathological need to ingratiate themselves with people who want to destroy them lead them to make stupid move after stupid move," complained Markos Moulitsas, who runs the influential Daily Kos blog....

What especially irritates progressives, though, is... the sustained ability of right-wing media forces to frame the political debate.

For a decade, conservative activists have haunted Democrats. It was what they blamed for the caricature of Al Gore in 2000 and the "swift-boating" of John Kerry in 2004. In 2008, Hillary Clinton and her campaign warned that Obama couldn't handle the same attacks that had sunk the last 3 Democratic presidential hopefuls. He proved the doubters wrong, of course, and his team was adroit in fending off the cultural and racially tinged attacks launched by the right during the general election.

But the same conservative forces have, if anything, strengthened with Obama in the WH and Democrats in control of Congress - forcing progressives once again on the defensive.

"The right's messaging apparatus - talk radio, Fox, Drudge - is remarkably sturdy in the digital age and Democratic leaders and strategists are still at a loss about how to deal with it," lamented Peter Daou, an online strategist and former Hillary Clinton adviser. "The belief in 2008 was that the Obama online machine would trump it, but as I argued during the health care debate, 'The health reform showdown is powerful evidence that the much-touted online advantage of the left, if not a chimera, is certainly questionable when it comes to major political confrontations.' "

"In that context, the Sherrod fiasco is just another in a long series of examples of Democrats being confounded and intimidated by the right's ruthless attack machine," he said....

More broadly, though, the WH believes there is another culpable party that is enabling the right - the mainstream media.

By picking up charges that emanate from Breibart or Fox, Obama officials say, traditional reporters force their hand. Once stories cross over... the pressure intensifies to respond.

As for the specific case of Sherrod, the WH is angry that reporters dare question the hasty termination when their own publications aired the partial clip that sparked the story....

But, as is often the case with political stories, the Sherrod case isn't just about the Sherrod case. The irritation on the left after this episode is serving as a proxy for more fundamental gripes from Obama's base about the man once viewed as the closest thing to a true progressive elected president in modern history.

"It's always been a bit of a conundrum reconciling Obama the campaigner and Obama the president," said liberal blogger John Aravosis. "The former was a maverick, the latter tries far too hard not to rock the boat."

"The administration has enabled the Republicans, and all their political opponents, including conservative Democrats. far too often. They didn't pass a big enough stimulus because the Republicans objected. They didn't push for the public option because the Republicans, and conservative Democrats, objected. They didn't go for a full repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' because Republican appointee Secretary [Robert] Gates objected."

Added Aravosis: "... But far too often, President Obama seems to cut his losses, on personnel and policy, whenever the Republicans say 'boo.' I have no idea why he doesn't show more backbone, but a lot of Obama supporters, myself included, wish he would."