Inartful, but Honest

Inartful, but Honest

By Ruth Marcus - August 11, 2010

WASHINGTON -- I'm with Gibbs.

At times I've found White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to be unnecessarily irascible, and maybe his lashing out at the constant grumbling of the "professional left" wasn't the best tactic. You want the base worked up -- but for you, not about you.

Nonetheless, his basic point was spot on: The complainers from the left are, in some combination, myopic, forgetful and deranged.

Gibbs is far from the only White House official with these frustrations, but he's the first to share them on the record and, therefore, the first to walk them back. He issued a statement longer than the original offending words acknowledging that he may have spoken "inartfully" -- which is Washington-speak for honestly -- and confessing to watching "too much cable."

That last part may be true. As to the rest of it -- Gibbs was right the first time.

"I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested," Gibbs told The Hill's Sam Youngman, in an interview published Tuesday. "I mean, it's crazy."

This "professional left," he added, "will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we've eliminated the Pentagon. That's not reality."

Indeed, for all the derision from the left about the Bush administration not being "reality-based," many lefty bloggers and talking heads have failed to be reality-based in assessing the Obama administration.

Health care reform, in this glass-half-empty world, is a disappointment because it lacks a public option. The president's failure to close Guantanamo or end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is a betrayal. If only President Obama was willing to bang heads, name names, stand tough, he would have been able to get -- fill in the blank -- a bigger stimulus, tougher financial reform, new legislation to help unions organize.

Excuse me, but can these people not count to 60? Have they somehow failed to notice that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have not exactly been playing nice? That while the left laments Obama's minor deviations from party orthodoxy, the right has been portraying him, with some success, as an out-of-control socialist?

Apparently not. Responding to Gibbs, Jane Hamsher, of the blog Firedoglake, derided Obama's record of "corporatist capitulation" and noted, "Spiro Agnew -- sorry, Robert Gibbs -- says ‘the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.' Well, the Obama in the White House is not representative of the Obama who organized, campaigned, raised money and ran for office, so I guess it's a wash."

Spiro Agnew? Gibbs is going to have to work on his alliterative skills to come up with anything as memorable as nattering nabobs of negativism. Carping cavilers of cyberspace?

That the left would fall out of love with Obama was entirely predictable. "After eight years without the White House, and two years in which a Democratic majority in Congress found itself stymied in delivering on its promises, the leftward precincts of his party are not inclined toward either compromise or patience," I wrote just after the election.

What surprises me, though -- and, no doubt, what set off Gibbs -- is the venom of the liberal critics even in the face of the sustained attack on Obama from the right and a legislative record longer and more impressive than I would have guessed back then.

In the old days of press-bashing, it was sound advice not to argue with people who buy ink by the barrel. The Gibbs backlash shows how foolhardy it is to argue with people who don't even have to buy ink.


Copyright 2010, Washington Post Writers Group

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