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Right and Left Agree: Obama Stands Pat

The right and the left have something in common: neither is impressed with the White House’s initial reaction to the GOP blowout. George Will writes:

It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever — ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government.

The more he denounced Republicans as the party of “no,” the better Republicans did. His denunciations enabled people to support Republicans without embracing them as anything other than impediments to him.

Rather, as Will points out, the “blame” is to be found elsewhere: “George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Supreme Court, a Cincinnati congressman (John Boehner), Karl Rove, Americans for Prosperity and other “groups with harmless-sounding names” (Hillary Clinton’s ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ redux), ‘shadowy third-party groups’ (they are as shadowy as steam calliopes), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, finally, the American people.” In his press conference, Obama added a new theory: the “misperception” of overreach.

Meanwhile, as I speculated yesterday, the left is not pleased with the Grumpy Gus routine. Greg Sargent observes Obama’s “surprisingly pessimistic tone.” Sargent frets:

More broadly, the bulk of the presser seemed to display the President feeling his way on a new and uncertain political landscape. …

First, with Republicans moving to roll back key chunks of his agenda, how does he draw a line against those efforts without allowing Republicans to paint him as arrogant and deaf to the message of last night’s results?

And second: How aggressively can he highlight the Republicans’ refusal to compromise, and thus claim the moral high ground, without undercutting the impression — one he clearly wants to feed — that he’s reaching out and trying to establish common ground with them?

Notice Sargent’s assumption: Obama won’t permit any ideological softening or substantive compromise. It’s all now a matter of tactics — how not to budge an inch and how to blame the GOP for daring to take the voters’ mandate seriously.

Maybe Obama will demonstrate new ideological flexibility and eschew the parts of his agenda that put John Boehner in the speaker’s chair. But if Will and Sargent are any indication, neither side really thinks that is possible. After all, they’ve been paying attention for the past two years, and there’s no evidence that Obama is able or willing to go that route.


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