Eugene Robinson, the liberal columnist for the Washington Post, on MSNBC this morning: “Can Marco Rubio appeal to Hispanics?” Marco Rubio, the overwhelming favorite to win the Florida Senate race, is the child of two Cuban refugees. Apparently Americans of Cuban descent are not Hispanics, in Robinson’s eyes, because they tend to vote Republican.
Topic: Eugene Robinson
Courtesy of Hotair comes this clip of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz at the “One Nation” rally this weekend. I do hope that liberals who are so eager to argue for civility in public discourse might have a word or two to say about Mr. Schultz, who, among other things, refers to conservatives as the “forces of evil” and says that while conservatives talk about our forefathers, “they want discrimination.”
Now, I don’t expect much more from someone like Ed Schultz. But liberal commentators (E.J. Dionne, Jr., Eugene Robinson, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter, and Jim Wallis, for starters) who complain about political discourse only when the offending parties are on the right would do themselves and the nation a favor if they spoke out against haters such as Schultz and Representative Alan Grayson. (Grayson’s deeply dishonest and repulsive ad, accusing his opponent of being “Taliban Dan Webster,” can be found here.)
If pundits like E.J. Dionne and others remain silent when people who share their philosophical and ideological precepts cross the line, then it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that their counsel for civility is being driven by partisan impulses rather than a genuine concern about the quality of public discourse.
I’ve admitted that it’s become something of a hobby of mine to point out how the left is becoming increasingly unhinged and alienated from America and turning on the American people with a vengeance (see here and here). We can add the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson to the list. According to Robinson,
In the punditry business, it’s considered bad form to question the essential wisdom of the American people. But at this point, it’s impossible to ignore the obvious: The American people are acting like a bunch of spoiled brats.
For the record, in the aftermath of Obama’s election, Robinson wrote a column titled “Morning in America.” According to Robinson:
Yet something changed on [Election Day 2008] when Americans — white, black, Latino, Asian — entrusted a black man with the power and responsibility of the presidency. I always meant it when I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I always meant it when I sang the national anthem at ball games and shot off fireworks on the Fourth of July. But now there’s more meaning in my expressions of patriotism, because there’s more meaning in the stirring ideals that the pledge and the anthem and the fireworks represent. … For me, the emotion of this moment has less to do with Obama than with the nation. Now I know how some people must have felt when they heard Ronald Reagan say “it’s morning again in America.” The new sunshine feels warm on my face.
Today thunderclouds are blocking the sunshine. Morning in America is turning to night. We have gone from an estimable people to a bunch of spoiled brats — all because the citizenry is rising up against a president who they believe (with considerable evidence on their side) is doing harm to their country.
What’s that you say, Mr. Robinson? The character of the American people hasn’t left and gone away … hey, hey, hey.
You have to give the Washington Post credit — their editors certainly offer a contrast on their op-ed pages. Today, needless to say, you have a Michael Gerson and Eugene Robinson. The difference is stark, and revealing.
From Gerson you have a measured analysis, which takes into account the series of events that have transformed Obama from a cult-like figure into a struggling and rather radioactive one. He writes:
The most destructive gap for President Obama is not the Republican lead on the generic congressional ballot or even a job disapproval that has surpassed approval — it is the gap between aspiration and reality.
The Manhattan mosque controversy showed the problem in compressed form. First came the Obama of high-toned principle (largely the right principle, in my view). Then a politically motivated recalibration. Then a scrambling staff explanation. Then an embarrassed silence, since it is difficult to clarify the clarification of a clarification. Then the president’s regretful assertion of “no regrets.”
I don’t agree with Gerson’s position on the mosque, but his rendition of the fact is exact and his list of other examples is overwhelmingly persuasive. He explains, “From the firing of Shirley Sherrod to the obsession with Fox News to lashing out at the ‘professional left,’ the Obama administration engages in a daily hypocrisy.” And then he provides still more examples to support his conclusion:
Politicians have been known to say one thing and do another. And high ideals and high rhetoric always create the potential for hypocrisy. But the disappointment with Obama is especially acute. He won office by providing new voters with intoxicating hopes. America was tipsy with idealism — resulting in a particularly difficult hangover. … All politicians fall — but not from such a height.
Then there is Eugene Robinson, who understandably must be at his wit’s end, as the politician in whom he and so many others on the left invested so much effort and so much of their own credibility to promote is now stumbling. His thesis is as bizarre as it is unsupported: “President Obama Is on a Winning Streak,” is the title of his column. Bet you’re confused, since he’s at an all-time low in the polls, his party faces an electoral wipe-out, his predictions of a summer of recovery have proven to be ludicrous, his party is so desperate as to promise to “improve” his “historic” health-care legislation, and he’s incurred the wrath of both supporters and critics of the Ground Zero mosque.
So what is Robinson’s argument based on (other than wishful thinking)? Well, there is Obama’s success in Iraq. Bet you thought that was George W. Bush’s (over the objections of Robinson and Obama), but now all praise is due to Obama because he said he’d bring the troops home. “When he took office, there were about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on the heels of George W. Bush’s combat surge,” is how Robinson evades the historical record. That would be the surge, which led to an American victory and permitted Obama to bring home troops “on the heels” of a remarkable accomplishment. And he seems unaware of or chooses to ignore criticism from the right that the departure timetable is too abrupt and puts at risk the gains we have made. (“Even his scorched-earth Republican critics, by their silence, are acknowledging that the president has fulfilled his campaign promise to be ‘just as careful getting out of Iraq as we were reckless getting in.’”) One half-truth, built on an evasion, topped off by a misrepresentation.
OK, what else does Robinson have? The GM bailout: “The company was saved, workers kept their jobs, and taxpayers are going to get their money back. That’s nice work.” Yes, but we haven’t gotten our money back. And in typical Keynesian fashion, he forgets that all the money spent on GM wasn’t used someplace else in the economy, perhaps to create more jobs in industries with a brighter future. But I will concede that it turned out better than many expected.
Then there is the BP oil spill. Robinson treats in this way the Democrats’ anger over the administration’s misrepresentation of the extent of the clean-up: “The administration’s claim that three-quarters of the oil was disposed of — by nature or by human intervention — before it could despoil the environment looks overly optimistic to some researchers. … But a few months ago, who imagined that the president and his family would so soon be able to enjoy a day on a gulf beach and a meal of gulf seafood?” And who could have imagined that he would have given a widely panned Oval Office speech, sent his poll numbers skidding, advertised the limits of overarching liberal government, and caught flack for not going to the Gulf on his first vacation? (He had to do a day of make-up later in the summer). Listen, I don’t think there’s a Democrat on the ballot willing to tout the BP oil spill as an Obama “win.”
And then, the cherry on the top of his frothy column is the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Big win for Obama. He must be joking, right? Nope.”Obama saw his duty to uphold the values of our Constitution and make clear that our fight is against the terrorists, not against Islam itself. Instead of doing what was popular, he did what was right.” And reversed himself within twenty-four hours. And incurred the ire of the left. And is giving his own party fits. Well, all that was left out.
What is missing in Robinson’s take — the economy, the poll news, the complete Mosque debacle — makes Gerson’s point. The gap between aspirations and results is now so wide that the only way to bridge it is to fudge the facts and leave out much of what has transpired over the last year. Robinson and Gerson come from opposing political perspectives. But the most noticeable difference is the degree to which they attend to the facts and are able to draw therefrom persuasive conclusions. In that department, there is no comparison.
I don’t see eye to eye with Eugene Robinson on the direction Obama should take to repair his presidency (Robinson is a card-carrying member of the double-down on ObamaCare club). But I heartily concur with him on two points.
First, he thinks the populist hooey isn’t very convincing: “Obama just doesn’t give off that guy-next-door vibe. Even if he were to roll up his sleeves, loosen his tie and start talkin’ like his predecessor, droppin’ his final g’s left and right, nobody would buy the act.” Like Obama’s “37″ bowling score — it’s embarrassing to watch Obama fake being a non-elitist. As Robinson argues, Obama can use “fight” 20 times in a speech, but it doesn’t amount to much if it doesn’t correlate with any actions — or results. It’s hard to tell which is worse — the artifice of anger or the fact that Obama thinks that artifice will help.
Second — and here’s the bad news for the Obami — Obama can’t get by on campaign happy talk. Or any kind of talk. Robinson warns, “In the end, voters will respect Obama’s accomplishments, not his aspirations.” Uh oh. There are no accomplishments so far. (Racking up more debt than any other president in such a short time doesn’t count.) He ran on aspirations and New Agey inspiration. (Plus a whole lot of Bush-bashing.) Now it’s not enough? That’s right. And that’s what his most loyal defenders are telling him. They feel compelled to repeat it, I suspect, because they have a queasy feeling that Obama doesn’t grasp this.
Tomorrow Obama will have to give a speech — a big speech that’s the sort of crutch he’s resorted to again and again. (Recall the “game changer” September health-care address?) He might think that this is the chance to reset his presidency. But his speech won’t change much of anything unless the content and the actions that follow amount to a real revision of his agenda. Obama often seems convinced that if he could give just one more speech, one more interview, maybe that would do it. They listened during the campaign. Well, that was then. Now they expect him to do something — something different from what he’s been doing. The country will be listening. But then they’ll watch to see if anything comes of it.
Eugene Robinson is typical of the liberal pundits who are grudgingly acknowledging that Obama and his Democratic congressional allies are in deep trouble. However, he is less candid about the reasons.
Well there’s an “enthusiasm gap,” he says. He sneers: “Vocal opponents of the president and the Democratic congressional leadership are eager, motivated and so excited that they can’t wait to grab their ‘tea party’ signs and march around the neighborhood. Vocal supporters of the president are … well, at the moment they aren’t even particularly vocal.” But why? We’re told there are “reasons beyond the president’s control.” Ah, the Republicans (in the minority in both houses and discredited nationwide after 2008) opposed him. Really? The enthusiasm gap sprung up because the minority party opposed what he was doing? That makes no sense.
How about this one then: “The Senate bill is in many ways a breakthrough, especially in covering 31 million uninsured Americans and ensuring that no one can be denied insurance because of preexisting conditions. But progressives had to give up the idea of a public insurance option, and organized labor had to compromise on taxing ‘Cadillac’ health plans.” Well that explains why liberals aren’t very enthusiastic, but we’re not yet hearing why the other side is grabbing those signs. (Could it be what’s in that health-care bill? Could it be something the Democrats did? Nah! Press on!)
Or could it be Obama’s handling of the economy? Mai, non! “On the economy, there is probably not much more that the administration could have done to ameliorate the pain so many Americans are feeling.”
At the end of his search for reasons, Robinson tip-toes to the vicinity of the truth: “The other major reason for the enthusiasm gap is that Republicans have been winning far too many battles in the ‘message’ war — for example, turning ‘affordable health care for all’ into ‘big government takeover.’” It’s the message mind you; nothing the Democrats have done.
If you’re looking for any recognition that the Democrats have overreached, that they’ve freaked out the country, that the tea party protesters are protesting against something, that the country is in an uproar because Obama ran as a moderate and has governed (or tried to) from the Left, you’ll be disappointed. If a pending loss in Massachusetts hasn’t done the trick, it’s hard to see what might finally get through to them. I suppose crushing losses in November. We’ll find out.
As Abe noted earlier, today Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post lacerates Hillary Clinton for her statement in USA Today that Barack Obama’s coalition among “hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.” Clinton is, according to Robinson, playing the race card again. And he writes this:
How silly of me. I thought the Democratic Party believed in a colorblind America.
Come again? Democrats believe in a “colorblind America”? If that’s the case, then how would Robinson explain why the Democratic Party has been leading the charge for race-based quotas and set-asides over the years? That they promote justices who want to take race into account in their judicial rulings? Just how is it that liberals count by race and reward points by race and reduce as many issues as they can to race–yet insist all the while that they believe in a colorblind society? And while we’re at it: how does Robinson explain the fact that “civil rights” activists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who over the years have done so much to create, exploit, and fuel racial tensions in this nation (including Sharpton’s despicable role in the Tawana Brawley case), find a comfortable home in the Democratic Party?
One may agree or disagree with using race as a consideration in, say, college admissions. Reasonable people can debate what role, if any, race should play in such matters. (I side with Professor Alexander Bickel, who in The Morality of Consent wrote, “[A] racial quota derogates the human dignity and individuality of all to whom it is applied; it is invidious in principle as well as in practice… The history of the racial quota is a history of subjugation, not beneficence…. a quota is a divider of society, a creator of castes, and it is all the worse for its racial base, especially in a society desperately striving for an equality that will make race irrelevant.”) But whatever those who advocate such positions are promoting, it is not a colorblind America. It is, in fact, the very opposite. And surely Eugene Robinson must, on some level, know it. How silly of him to claim what is so clearly not true.
In today’s Washington Post, Eugene Robinson has an op-ed on Hillary’s recent boast about getting white voters and what it says about her:
As a statement of fact, that’s debatable at best. As a rationale for why Democratic Party superdelegates should pick her over Obama, it’s a slap in the face to the party’s most loyal constituency — African Americans — and a repudiation of principles the party claims to stand for. Here’s what she’s really saying to party leaders: There’s no way that white people are going to vote for the black guy. Come November, you’ll be sorry.
How silly of me. I thought the Democratic Party believed in a colorblind America.
He did? Perhaps someone can pull Eugene Robinson aside and lend him some footage from the past year. From the Clintons’ race strategy to Obama’s racial justification of Jeremiah Wright to John Kerry’s political faith in Obama’s melanin count, the one thing we know Democrats believe in is color visibility. To be part of the Democratic electorate is to receive your Crayola label, stand in the box, and hope to be used.
Robinson goes on:
From the beginning, Hillary Clinton has campaigned as if the Democratic nomination were hers by divine right. That’s why she is falling short — and that’s why she should be persuaded to quit now, rather than later, before her majestic sense of entitlement splits the party along racial lines.
By this logic, Obama is sure to destroy the Dems. Since February, he’s done everything but don robes and walk on water. Without a shred of irony, Robinson writes: “Clinton’s sin isn’t racism, it’s arrogance.” And the sin of Democratic supporters is unstinting gullibility.
Barack Obama’s campaign chief David Axelrod says “We don’t win white males anyway.” But Democrats can, if they are successful, carry rural voters,women, seniors, Catholics and even gun owners. Bill Clinton famously remarked that Al Gore lost the 2000 race because of gun voters in key swing states.
So the Obama team is left to come up with a better explanation for why none of this matters–not Texas, not Ohio and especially not Pennsylvania. For now, Left punditocracy’s ringleader is beset with worries that Obama is trapped in Clinton’s “suffocating embrace” and, in essence, is being unmanned.
What to do, what to do? For starters, he might debate Clinton, proving he’s not afraid of her or the press. Then he might give some meaty policy speeches explaining why he really is the candidate of the working class voter. Finally, he could come up with another stump speech, one that doesn’t bore even MSNBC’s Eugene Robinson (as last night’s speech did.).
But that would mean switching up his game. And it’s an open question whether he has any game, at all, other than his Agent-of-Change routine. Which seems to have gotten a bit stale.