By Glen Greenwald in Salon
You may think that the reason you’re dissatisfied with the Obama administration is because of substantive objections to their policies: that they’ve done so little about crisis-level unemployment, foreclosures, and widespread economic misery. Or because of the White House’s apparently endless devotion to Wall Street. Or because the President has escalated a miserable, pointless and unwinnable war that is entering its ninth year.
Or because he has claimed the power to imprison people for life with no charges and to assassinate American citizens without due process, intensified the secrecy weapons and immunity instruments abused by his predecessor, and found all-new ways of denying habeas corpus.
Or because he granted full-scale legal immunity to those who committed serious crimes in the last administration. Or because he’s failed to fulfill — or affirmatively broken — promises ranging from transparency to gay rights.
But Robert Gibbs — in one of the most petulant, self-pitying outbursts seen from a top political official in recent memory, half derived from a paranoid Richard Nixon rant and the other half from a Sean Hannity/Sarah Palin caricature of The Far Left — is here to tell you that the real reason you’re dissatisfied with the President is because you’re a fringe, ideological, Leftist extremist ingrate who needs drug counseling:
The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity. During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.
“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”
The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”
Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”
The White House, constantly under fire from expected enemies on the right, has been frustrated by nightly attacks on cable news shows catering to the left, where Obama and top lieutenants like Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have been excoriated for abandoning the public option in healthcare reform; for not moving faster to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay; and for failing, so far, to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military. . . .
Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.
Progressives, Gibbs said, are the liberals outside of Washington “in America,” and they are grateful for what Obama has accomplished in a shattered economy with uniform Republican opposition and a short amount of time.
So, to recap: (1) The Professional Left is totally irrelevant losers who speak for absolutely nobody, and certainly nobody in Real America who matters; but (2) they’re ruining everything for the White House!!! And: if you criticize the President, it’s only because you’re such a rabid extremist that you harbor a secret desire to eliminate the Pentagon — that’s how anti-American you are!
You’re such a Far Left extremist that Dennis Kucinich isn’t far enough Left for you, you subversive, drug-using hippies! You’re so far to the Left that you want to turn the U.S. into Canada. As David Frum put it today: “More proof of my longtime thesis, Repub pols fear the GOP base; Dem pols hate the Dem base.”
The Democrats have been concerned about a lack of enthusiasm on the part of their base headed into the midterm elections. These sorts of rabid, caricatured, Fox-News-copying attacks on the Left will undoubtedly help generate more enthusiasm — more loud clapping — for the Democrats. I know I’m eager to go canvass and clap for Democrats after reading Gibbs’ noble, inspiring vision. If it were Gibbs’ goal to be as petulant and self-pitying as possible, what could he have done differently?
Perhaps one day the White House can work itself up to express this sort of sputtering rage against the Right, or the Wall Street thieves who destroyed the American economy, or the permanent factions that control Washington.
Until then, we’ll have to satisfy ourselves with White House explanations that the Real Culprits are not (of course) them, but the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything. I’ll give credit to Gibbs for putting his name on this outburst: these are usually the things they say anonymously and then deny afterward on the record that it’s what they think.
UPDATE: On September 9, 2008 — roughly two months before the election — Barack Obama addressed a large, enthusiastic crowd and said: “As president, I will lead a new era of accountability in education. But see, I don’t just want to hold our teachers accountable; I want to hold our government accountable. I want you to hold me accountable.” In 20 short months, we’ve gone from “hold me accountable” to “get drug tested,” you wretched ingrates.
UPDATE II: Robert Gibbs:
I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it’s crazy. ced in full by Barack Obama.