Liberal commentators from Saturday Night Live comedians to newspaper columnists to bloggers to gay activists have portrayed President Obama as a do-nothing president and "whiner-in-chief," expressing a growing concern that the president is not showing enough spine.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In recent weeks, President Obama has faced increasingly sharp criticism of his style and performance from an unlikely quarter: liberals.
Liberal commentators from Saturday Night Live comedians to newspaper columnists to leftist bloggers to gay rights activists have been portraying Obama as a do-nothing president and "whiner-in-chief," expressing a growing concern that the commander in chief is not showing enough spine.
Critics on the left are growing impatient with Obama and pressuring him to reject a request from his chief military commander for more troops in Afghanistan, to include a government-run insurance option in his health insurance reform plan and to lift the don't-ask-don't-tell policy concerning gays in the military.
On Sunday thousands of gay rights activists marched from the White House to the Capitol, demanding that Obama keep his promise to work to end discrimination against gays and lesbians.
"This president has done something pretty extraordinary," said Michael Gerson, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former senior adviser to the Bush administration.
"He's managed to convince a lot of Americans that he's more liberal than he thought he was, at the same time he's disappointed his liberal base," he told FOX News. "That's an accomplishment of sorts."
Gerson said Obama faces problems with his liberal base, which he says is in a demanding mood and is setting high expectations.
"Every president needs the ability, particularly with a centrist country and centrist Congress, to make some concessions," he said. "They need some ideological leeway."
The White House says the president has acted decisively in securing federal bailouts for General Motors and Chrysler, appointing Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court and on other issues that critics have forgotten about because they've been focusing on health care reform and the war in Afghanistan.
The White House also points out that Obama said during the campaign that he would be a deliberative president, and that he won't change just because some commentators say he should.
Tensions between the White House and liberal bloggers boiled over Sunday when New York Times correspondent John Harwood said on CNBC that an anonymous White House official had told him that the bloggers should "take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult."
In an e-mail to the Huffington Post on Monday, Harwood clarified that the unidentified adviser was referring to Obama's entire liberal base, not just gays and lesbians.
But some see the criticism as par for the course.
"You're never going to make everybody happy all the time. That's just the rule of politics," said Democratic strategist Josh Gottheimer, a former senior adviser to the Clinton administration.
"I think he's done plenty for the left, he's done plenty for the center," he said of Obama. "He's got a philosophy. He made it clear when he was running for president that he was going to do what's best for the country in very difficult times, and you're not going to please everyone."
Gottheimer cited progress on the economy and health care reform, which is advancing to the Senate and House floors for a historic debate later his month.
"These things have cycles," Gottheimer said. "They can't just say positive things all the time. They have to have a little fun."
Gottheimer pointed to Obama's 52 percent approval rating, saying that's what really counts.
"That's ultimately the poll that matters, and not what the late night comics say," he said.
FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.