Bird Watching: Obama’s an ‘Odd Duck,’ But His GOP Critics ‘Screech Like Ravens on Meth’

The Obama administration is in the doldrums, and not only because it’s August. Is it that the president has a short attention span, or that he’s insufficiently ideological, or have Republicans just worn him down? Three lefty pundits opined on the issue earlier this week.

In a Tuesday New Republic piece, Georgetown history professor Michael Kazin identified “Obama’s sober mistrust of ideology and partisanship” as an obstacle to progress and urged Obama to go beyond “pragmatism” (emphasis added):

Why has Barack Obama—one of the most eloquent and thoughtful of recent presidents—become such a terrible politician? Midway through his sixth year in office, his ineptitude is pretty clear. He frustrated and demobilized the huge base he built during his campaigns and, unless the polls turn around quickly, will be watching from the White House as the GOP takes full control of Congress this fall…

Obama is governing a nation full of discouraged, sometimes angry people, and he seems unable or unwilling to address their discontent in any sustained or effective way. Worse, except for those deluded souls who believe he’s a tyrannical socialist, the president has become a rather boring and insignificant figure...

[I]f Obama cares deeply about anything he has accomplished or intends to accomplish, he has made no serious or sustained attempt to let us know…No topic seems to hold his interest very long…

…Instead of helping him navigate the political rapids, Obama’s sober mistrust of ideology and partisanship has left him without the ability to change the course of the nation or the thinking of its citizens in any significant way.  

Of course, the man had a lot to overcome. Obama took office with an economy tilting toward chaos and two not-so-little wars requiring urgent settlement. From the start, the opposition party has lived up to its name with a discipline Lenin would have admired. And, with the exception of the LGBT movement, no popular force on the left has mustered the resources or staying power to counter the zeal of Tea Partiers and the money of the Kochs and their ilk. Given all this, it’s remarkable that Obama achieved most of what he set out to do… 

…[I]f he truly cares about his legacy, he ought to realize, right now, that pragmatism is never enough.


-- Also on Tuesday, Charles Pierce of Esquire contended that Obama, though understandably discouraged by five-plus years of GOP extremism, should push back and “say anything he wants now”:

[T]he president is not a "divisive figure." He has been made into a divisive figure...The harder he preached his message of conciliation, the more his enemies made a figure of division out of him…He placed himself in a kind of box because his rhetoric about racial reconciliation and one America failed to take into account the political utility of entrenched racism…

Weariness in a president is understandable…But, even at the end of their respective ropes, LBJ got a gun-control law passed, and Nixon increased the minimum wage, and Reagan managed to work with Gorbachev, and Lincoln managed to win the Civil War. The president can say anything he wants now. He will never run for re-election again. His opponents are going to screech like ravens on meth no matter what he says…

-- And Kevin Drum of Mother Jones wondered on Wednesday why Obama wanted to be president in the first place:

Obama is an odd duck. It's not just that he doesn't schmooze. As near as I can tell, he has a barely concealed contempt for Congress. He doesn't really enjoy playing the political game…Even if Republicans were acting like a normal political party these days, I still don't think he'd enjoy it much. And yet, he spent years campaigning for the top political job in the United States. It's a little bit of a mystery, frankly.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters