I don’t mean to get all Bob Somerby on you, but Frank Rich’s Sunday op-ed is ridiculous. Obama isn’t acquiescing to Republican demands because he’s suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or some other deep-seated psychological malady. That’s clearly overthinking the problem.
It’s far more basic than that–Obama’s gall can be divided into three parts:
1) He really believes that the country needs to be less partisan, and become more bipartisan. Without this, the country will be suffer. He would rather negotiate with the lunatic than be partisan.
2) He is a Rockefeller Republican. That is, he likes a lot of the Republican program, especially economically, but with some of the harsh edges planed off, and with some of the really crazy extremist shit left out.
3) He is neither interested nor very knowledgeable about economics–kind of a problem given the current state of affairs.
It should be pretty clear to regular readers of this blog that I consider these to be completely daffy views, but I’m not the president, so, like it or not, we have to deal with them.
Treating Obama’s politcal dysfunction as psychological, or, for that matter, structural (i.e., a lack of power), is that ignores a very obvious hypothesis: much of what the Republicans are proposing doesn’t really bother him.
If he were bothered by unemployment, he would have fought harder for a bigger stimulus package. He never wanted to anger the banksters–hell, he plays golf with them at Martha’s Vineyard. He touted himself as a constitutional scholar, even as he has granted himself the power to assassinate U.S. citizens without any judicial process. On social issues, he has never been especially gay-friendy or gay-comfortable (contrast that with Hillary Clinton, fifteen years his senior, who includes among her most trusted aides a lesbian). Of course he’s not going to push hard for DADT. He’s undermining the Democratic position on the Bush tax cuts, even though it’s popular, because he doesn’t like it (terror at being accused of ‘raising taxes’, even as he talks about the need for deficit reduction, is also a driver here). On environmental issues, let’s not forget that four days before the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he equated environmentalists with global warming denialists. He didn’t have to do that.
On any number of issues, he has never truly threatened the use of the veto. Since being elected, he has never campaigned hard or bargained hard for Democratic positions. This isn’t psychological, it’s because he’s not very bothered by the outcome. Compare his unwillingness to fight for rank-and-file Democrats with his willingness, at times, to fight against them when they called him on something (as rarely as that happens).
Look, if Obama were white, it would be obvious that he is a moderate Republican. Mind you, he’s not as bad as the typical Republican who is bugshit insane.
But ersatz psychoanalysis only obscures that Obama is, at heart, a Republican, albeit a moderate one. Democrats, including elected ones, need to recognize that a Republican, not a Democrat, is in the White House. They must realize that, vis a vis the presidency, they are an opposition party and act accordingly.