Best column ever! (Okay, not ever, just this week)

Thanks dotster for the link to this brilliant John Avlon column, that almost brought me to tears.

Obama Finds His Mojo

It came in the final five minutes of Tuesday’s afternoon press conference. With the president under attack from congressional Democrats and the press corps, Obama recaptured some of the 2008 campaign magic when he started to push back and passionately defend his approach to the presidency.

The comments offered an uncensored look into his frustrations with armchair ideologues and his “North Star” philosophy of governing as a pragmatic progressive. It deserves a close reading and a place on the Obama administration highlight reel.

// snip

This was not just raw frustration but a cold dose of perspective from the man in the Oval Office. It was a declaration of independence from the professional left and a statement of principle from a pragmatic progressive.

// snip

When you watch the video, the sarcasm of the “I know that shocks people” comes through clearly. He is mocking the Washington bubble, his own inner circle as well as the insulated commentariat debate. The President still has a sense of perspective, somehow. Perhaps because he’s comforted by the lessons of history:

“FDR, when he started Social Security, it only affected widows and orphans. You did not qualify. And yet now it is something that really helps a lot of people. When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew. Under the criteria that you just set out, each of those were betrayals of some abstract ideal. This country was founded on compromise.”

And then he dropped the big hammer argument for faith in evolving toward a more perfect union.

“I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding.”

That’s when the air went out of the room and the president commanded the stage. Rarely does he get so raw and personal. Rarely does he invoke the specter of race. But there it was in a cold hard statement of eloquent fact that could have been scripted by Aaron Sorkin.

// snip

We are living in a time of grossly distorted fun-house mirror political debates, where the far-right thinks that the president is a Marxist and the far-left thinks that he is a Wall Street sellout. In this over-heated environment, the responsibilities of governing get downgraded as the country gets divided. It is time to start turning the tide.

When we look back at the history of the Obama administration, those five minutes just might be remembered as the moment when Obama started to get his Mojo back and set the tone for the next two years. The North Star approach to the presidency will allow him to reclaim the allegiance of the center while steering toward re-election in 2012.


Go read it all!.


63 thoughts on “Best column ever! (Okay, not ever, just this week)

  1. I do not deny it – I love this president. The problem as I see it is that, like most really intelligent people, his thinking is 3 steps ahead of others less intelligent (most of us). What he needs to do is quit skipping steps one and two in the explanation process so that the rest of us can catch up to his thinking.

  2. Once again, thank you so much. We need sanity right now. Over at kos all I’m seeing is hysteria. But that was a great column. You are really doing a service.

  3. Yes! This article captures the strength
    of President Obama perfectly. When the
    “professional left” struck out against
    the Health Care vote, I couldn’t believe
    it. Since then, I’ve rethought their
    position on everything. I’m a liberal
    Democrat and they don’t represent my
    perspective at all! I am so glad to
    find other fellow supporters.

  4. What gets me the most about the frustrati (now in the Urban Dictionary!) is that besides reacting before reading, they are acting off of a fantasy perception of this President. Their hysterics do nothing but prove that they’re not based in reality.

  5. The president spoke truth to power. No, I don’t agree with everything he has done, but my God, given the hostile environment he’s had to live in — with pellets coming not just from Republicans and people in his own party, I believe he’s done better than most men would have.

    That is why it saddens me to see people so entrenched and adamant that he must perform the way they want him to.

    So, I especially took a delicious delight in this comment:

    “If that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.”

    I loved it. And you know why it hurts those that are screaming bloody murder now? It is the truth.

    On their so-called principles, some are calling for the defeat of the tax cut deal, never mind the repercussions for millions of Americans. They want the baby thrown out with the bath water.

    But I am still waiting to hear from all these people how they plan to help all of those folks whose unemployment insurance ends.

  6. The ‘sanctimonious’ dig drew the most howls from the left because it cut the closest—the first African-American president acknowledging the self-righteousness of the professional left. Because these are the stakes – either you embrace the politics of problem-solving and get the best deal you can, or the people who are supposedly trying to help suffer from the functional neglect that comes from noble failure.

    Ding! Ding! Ding!

    I have nothing to add.

  7. I can’t wait to read the article. It is very gratifying to know that there really are afew jouralists out there that do real work. Thanks again BWD for sharing.

  8. Now days I go to KOS for a good laugh!! Most of the people there are so mypoic and just not worth trying to engage. So, I just go for a laugh.

  9. ” It was a declaration of independence from the professional left and a statement of principle from a pragmatic progressive.”


    You could have heard a pin drop during President Obama’s answer to the last question, and eventhough they’d never admit it, the press pool was sitting there as if they were in a University lecture.

    This “fight” has in almost one swoop allowed Obama to be framed as a moderate/centrist after two years of the GOP framing him as a far left ideologue. The GOP successfully used “Obama/Pelosi liberal” as a smear during the campaign and blue dogs and conservadems ran away from him.

    Given the endless election cycle, 2012 is already gearing up. And looking at the host of 23 Democratic seats up in the Senate, with a lot of them being in purple States with uphill battles to retain, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was part Kabuki, or at least the Obama team knew exactly how the House woudl react.

    Look at what Obama got out of this negotiation, all for extending the Bush Extra tax cut for the rich that some non-ideological economists said should be extended in the short term anyways.

    The UEI extension ending in 13 months puts it right in the thick of the GOP primary. The extra tax cut expiring in two years puts it on the presidential campaign agenda.

    For 3-4% tax difference on 2% of the population Republicans signed off on a second stimulus, admittedly a purely tax cut stimulus, and gave up the ghost already on the idea that they’re real conservative deficit hawks, learning their lessons from the Bush years.

  10. I have always felt he is 2 or 3 steps ahead also. It must be very frustrating for him to see so many stuck back there somewhere and not be able to see what he sees. And he always makes more sense than anyone else when he explains his thinking, answering questions more coherently than anyone else. I think some of the anger directed toward him is this recognition, that he is way ahead of them, making sense when they are not, seeing the big picture when they do not, making them feel shortsighted and foolish.

  11. Wow. That is one kick-ass article. It’s so refreshing to know that some journalists really get it. I am so proud of our President. He is two steps ahead of everyone else, which is why we are the center of attention in the global arena. Thanks BWD.

  12. The “principled left” remind me of this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

  13. Many professional bloggers have found it more profitable to have Jerry Springer-style conflict for more exposure….just like the corporate-owned cable media. (which also, has to cater to their corporate owners)

    They certainly are not President Obama’s base as they are claiming nor are they concerned about the unemployed and the struggling middle class as they should be as Democrats…they need to look at the polls on the tax bill.

  14. I have finally come to a couple conclusions on why the “professional” left and specially people at sites such as DK are howling as much as they are.

    It is true that some started in on him even before the inauguration, but I think that was mostly from Clinton supporters who were still upset that she didn’t win.

    But the problem for a lot on the left is that even while they were denying that they viewed Obama as the Messiah who could solve all problems, many of them were expecting just that. And they placed on to him their owns aspirations for what could be done.

    In fact, even now there are calls that he promised this and promised that. In fact, go back to his speeches and he promised very few things. Not letting the middle class tax cuts expire was one of them, and he met that promise.

    Everything else was in terms of what he wanted to see and wanted to accomplish. And he alsways acknowledged it woudl be a struggle due to the atmosphere in DC.

    So these people, instead of being upset that they did this unrealistic dreaming, want to blame him for their own mistakes.

    The other, and very important thing, is that as much as they were angry for Bush establishing an Imperial Presidency where so much was done by executive order, that is exactly what they wanted form Obama. They wanted him to end DADT by executive order, they wanted EPA changes by executive order, they wanted Bush and his cronies tried for war crimes by executive order.

    Obama, to his credit, refused to do that because he does believe in the Constitution and separation of powers. Sure, I wish he had done more to reduce the power of the Presidency in some areas (ie things related to the “war of terror”) but he was not going to run roughshod over the proper processes, just like he promised not to.

    His great sin was not living up to the expectations of the left, expectations which they created pretty much out of thin air.

  15. I do have a feeling that this tax bill, and last week’s press conference, marks a turning point for our beleagueredand very patient president. A positive turning point.

    It feels like something in the zeitgeist has…shifted…in some way.

    The press conference itself was a marvel of pragmatism, quiet forcefulness and honesty.

  16. Um, “hear,” because no one’s head is going to explode over “here.” Note to self: Reread before hitting the “post” button.

  17. Thank you BWD. What he said indeed was so profound it had touched me when I saw the clip in my first run. I can say I have listened to that last part of the press conf (24:45 mark – can’t provide link since I am my iPhone) probably 4 or 5 times, I feel what this article is talking about. It is powerful and totally on point. If only the puritans get their head out of their ass.

  18. (Digging the earliest -> latest order from top to bottom. I think it’s much easier to read with the flow, as with the other way you have to scroll up and then read down each reply.)

  19. Read and Facebooked. Hoping it shows up on Daily Fox to annoy the puristas. Lord knows they’ve been annoying me with their intransigent insistence on “if only” as in: “If only he’d fought harder he would have magically gotten them to drop their opposition, even though he had nothing he could use against them and they’d made it clear – by voting AGAINST a no-brainer like health care for 9/11 rescuers – that they were willing to take the American people down with them.

  20. I’m furious over something I just read over at TPM. I’ve read TPM for a long time and it’s usually one of my first stops to read news but over the last several months I’ve been very disappointed with how it’s become more of a tabloid style website, much like Huffington Post. They seem to indulge in salacious headlines and often veer into “how can we get a dig in to PBO today” territory. Their election coverage was mostly focused on the idiotic Tea Party. And then there’s the more than annoying constant grammatical errors. But I digress.

    Well, today Josh Marshall had this to say about our President in a piece entitled Get Back the Swagger:

    “What doesn’t get enough attention in difficult political times is that failure breeds weakness and vice versa in what can be an acute and debilitating cycle. We know this. But we forget this. A Democratic president can’t win without the base? Or is it without the independents? Well, obviously it’s both. And winning politicians finds [sic] terrain on which to engage their political opponents where such ungainly coalitions are manageable.

    Look at President Obama today and the guy just doesn’t have his swagger. The confidence is gone. And so is the smile. That’s human, I guess. It’s been a rough year. And like other presidents you can see the age on this president after only a couple years.

    But people want to know they’re on board with a political leader who’s got a plan, who’s got something up his sleeve, who’s got some extra angle, some well of charisma or luck to draw on that makes the math in his team’s favor more than just 2 + 2 = 4.

    Now, as I tried to hint over the weekend, people tend to forget that it took President Clinton the better part of a year to get his head screwed back on right after the 1994 congressional midterms. And even beyond the psychological dynamics it’s just hard to look too on top of your game when you’ve got all these jaunty Republicans milling around.

    But it’s still important, perhaps the critical factor. No one wants to follow someone who looks like a loser or feels beat. Yes, I know all the different arguments about the tax cut deal and where he’s going to pick his fights and where he’s not or where he’s refused to so far. But the president needs his swagger back. Right now it may be his most critical deficit.”


    SO, it’s all about “SWAGGER” now???? PBO’s lost his confidence? WTH is he talking about?

  21. Agreed. I think it touched a nerve because, whether they know it or not, POTUS told the truth. And sometimes, the truth can be stinging.

    Go figure.

  22. I don’t feel that President Obama lost his mojo. He has always done, or at least tried to do, what he said he was going to do. Sane people get that. Unfortunately, in today’s society the big money is in acting a fool and making wild, inflammatory comments/ commentary. I do feel that some people forgot who they are – or maybe they just started showing their true colors. The difference is like BWD says…President Obama is the only adult in the room. (OK, except when the lovely FLOTUS is in the room! 😉

  23. You are so right, mjd. I said that somewhere the other day. It seems as though people are going for the Jerry Springer effect. The more outrageous statements they make, the more attention they think they will get.

    I am just convinced that reasonable Americans are looking at them and shaking their heads.

    Some of the few people I had a little respect for have lost me totally. I see rigid, self-egotistical people, who in their minds think they speak for all of us.

    I am done with that crowd.

  24. TiMT, I think it was you, who first pointed out this on another site, and it made me go back and replay it over and again that night I came upon it. If you get the chance, can you put that link here, please point to where I can find it.

    I remember my husband asking me how many times I was going to listen to it that night.


  25. They (the paid pundits on the internet) live in their own echo chamber, they hear from the angriest and loudest posters and have little connection to anyone outside of their own domain who might disagree with them. It results in them all jumping on the bandwagon because they’ve been fooled into believing that the unhappy people on their blogs and other blogs just like their blogs are representative of the party as a whole, maybe they need to get out more. As for the President losing his swagger, here we go again, just another way to keep spreading the ridiculous and just plain stupid meme that he is “weak”. Memo to the Professional Left: Rhetoric and swagger don’t get things done, negotiating and hard work do.

  26. So superficial. Everybody thinks they have an answer for what POTUS should do.

    Aren’t we all glad that he listened to none of them. And ironically, that’s why they are so furious.

    LOL, get his swagger back. People are so funny, I don’t waste my time getting mad at them anymore. But I still don’t hesiate to send them e-mails reminding them of their know-it-all attitudes. This guy will be no different today.

  27. They want him to play in their circus, he refuses to, and so they come out with this kind of silly drivel.

  28. Very glad he hasn’t listened to them and his ability to tune out the noise is a sign of strength.

  29. I think that this is a really good insight. He’s so humble as well as so bright, that he forgets that not everyone is going to be as up to speed.

    My only caution is that he’s also running circles around the GOP. Stopping to wink and nod at us might hamper that.

    I think that a terrific solution lies somewhere in the middle: POTUS should take more time to explain what he’s doing rather than taking it for granted that we automatically get it…*and/b>*…the lefty national and new media stops freaking out and going to excess every single time that something is taking place which violates a sacred cow etc. Absolutely, keep advocating for the most leftward outcomes possible, but the national and new lefty media needs to learn how to do so with RESTRAINT. Because skipping from crisis to crisis to crisis is exhausting and counterproductive and some of us aren’t going to go along for that ride–too energy draining.

    Thanks for the terrific comment demwolf!

  30. There are no spelling or grammar police here, lol. We understood you just fine. Thanks for the great link confirming what many of us thought intuitively: that people might not like every single component of the deal, but would be happy with some progress and forward movement. As a liberal, I’m happy with the UEI, EITC, and student credit extensions.

  31. That’s another promised kept by the way. Obama once said ‘we may not always agree, but I will always tell you what I think’

    well, there ya go.

  32. That’s precisely my thought: “wow, that’s shallow.” And incorrect/mistaken as well. This purity swarm is almost an orgy of sensationalism. I know that I probably say this too much, but thank God for these spaces of sanity. We are knee-deep in bs with this drama-loving fact-free media.

  33. I saw this earlier. Josh Marshall is usually smarter than that. This piece is really shallow,People Magazine-style political gossip.

  34. I wish Josh would allow comments on his “op-eds” ’cause I have a few words for him. The media likes to create a come back story though even if you never were down.

  35. It’s implied rather than explicitly stated, but the inference isn’t hard to determine.

    Keith’s been getting on my last nerve for a while now, but this straw really breaks this camel’s back. His entire special comment is unfair and full of untruths, half-truths, misleading statements and spin.

  36. Read the article, the notion that this supposed base could dig up a primary challenger for the President is a fantasy. And KO proves he is reality-challenged and doesn’t know the first thing about how the political system works, maybe he should try voting and learn.

  37. I usually send him an e-mail. Today will be no different. I really did not see him throwing himself with the lot, but I guess it is in vogue these days. Go figure.

    Everyone, it seems, wants a pound of POTUS’ flesh. Funny thing though, he’s going about doing the people’s business and letting them show themselves for what they are.

  38. Hey GN

    I’m going to out-shallow the shallow:

    They can all go F themselves. I don’t give a damn what they say, and I’m hoping that as time goes on, and wounds heal, NONE of us will.

    There are far more important things in life. Obama knows that, Biden knows that, after the month I’ve had I know that more than ever.

    The miserati on DK need to displace. Obama, especially since he is of color, thus giving cover, is an east target. But there are some of us who have also experienced strife, and turn in the opposite direction: to clearly see and to appreciate the good. I’ve always believed that if you do social/ psych evals on the worst of the miserati, you’d find, a frigging messes. But, screw it, I’m out of empathy.

  39. Here is the thing, these people believe their own hype. And what’s interesting is that some of them are so thin-skinned so that they can’t withstand the kinds of criticisms they throw up against this president and some other politicians, who don’t answer to them they way they want them to.

    In other words, they can dish, but they can’t take it. Any time some one takes them on, they get on their soap boxes and feel the need to respond. Imagine if politicians were doing the same.

    I recall KO getting so riled up and responding to a post over at the other place once because of something that was said about him. I don’t quite recall anymore. But he was furious. Here is a guy who sits on his perch criticizing people every night, yet he got so incensed about some anonymous blogger on the Internet. Ha.

    You know people(including yours truly here)coming out en masse to sign a petition when he was suspended appears to give him reasons for being so emboldened. All of a sudden he believes pundits and bloggers are the base.

    Go figure.

  40. These very same purists have been intellectually dishonest with themselves. I would get crickets when I would ask them at dKos if they really would be cheering principled non-action — that no HCR would have been better if we couldn’t get a public option. No stimulus if it wasn’t big enough. Seriously?

    I am certain these same people would be screaming, “I voted for a compromiser and look what I got!” Am I thrilled with everything this administration has done? Of course not — messaging being my main head-scratcher. But the virtually instant childishness from the Left has baffled me. I would say during the 2008 election that if we continued the level of support we had shown in the election, it would take at least a decade to re-make American discourse and right the ship that began with Reagan’s destruction of FDR’s America. That they think a President can just shake his fist and get his way is so damned idiotic.

    His real ‘enemies’ have been the Blue Dogs and unfortunately the result of Dean’s 50-state strategy that supported any candidate willing to put a “D” after his name, no matter how conservative he/she really was. In all fairness to the wonderful Dr. Dean, he never in a million years believed they would be THAT conservative and THAT destructive to basic progressive ideals, but these were the people Obama had to placate, not really the Republicans (until now, when we helped turn the House over to Boehner and weaken the Senate because of our purist inaction to come out and vote).

    I knew there’d be a certain amount of disillusionment, but the vitriol of it and childishness has been breathtaking to me.

  41. I am sick to death of Keith and Ed Schultz’s knee-jerk reaction to things without thinking things through and gathering enough information to make an informed decision. I’m tired of Ed Schultz starting a sentence bashing the President in the foulest terms and ending a sentence by telling us to vote for him and Democrats.

  42. I haven’t watched Keith since. All I’ve heard is out “offensive” Obama was to the Left in the press conference, but this statement of Keith’s gets no criticism?

  43. LOL! KO is reality-challenged. The my way or no way man.

    I will say it again. Obama’s press piece on the tax cuts showed who’s really in charge. Ain’t no doubt about it. BHO is the man. Hello KittyPat.

  44. Hey Sweetie!!

    I totally agree with what you said. I can’t even make the effort to care what a bunch of idiotic racists on DailyFox think. They’ve lost all sense of reality and reason.

    And I have had enough episodes of high blood pressure from reading the utter disrespect shown to the President to give a damn what those people think.

  45. This – THIS sums it up perfectly for me. THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT!!!

    “If that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.”

  46. Wow…Wow….Wow…that’s all I can say!!!

    Your right BWD “BEST EVER”…but knowing our President…maybe the best is yet to come.

    God Bless Him….This country has a rude awakening coming, to think that so called intelligent, independent thinking people would NOT recognize the depth of this MAN is beyond me.

    His heart is seen through the eyes of the most innocent gentle souls (the children) it’s almost contagious, when it comes from this President, he feels the comfort and love all around him.

    If we can learn something from his persona is, that he’s soul, his heart is for a better America as ONE.

    Thank you kindly BWD, for giving us this outlet and cherish history as it comes.


  47. yeah, because that’s the most important thing right now is that the pres turns his swag on and not helping us….assholes..

  48. Hi Hon

    Been trying to connect with you, but it’s tougher to do that here. Otherwise, I absolutely cannot believe this gem of a place, compared to house of horrors where we met!

    Those creeps and KO are on the Kostanic and they know it. Even the most disillusioned have glimmers of truth here and there. But since it was never about Obama, IMO, it was about their neurosis and bigotry and self hatred turned outward – they’ll find a substitute. Addiction substitution. There were some pricipled Progs over there, I suppose, at one point. But all that’s left are the Walking Dead.

  49. I haven’t been able to bear Ed Shultz for quite a few months now. Just the sound of his voice when he starts bloviating about everything the president has done wrong raises my blood pressure and I don’t need that nonsense.

  50. With President Obama, anger is always measured:

    “I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding.”

    but this one *is* on the money.

    If you don’t think the country and its laws can progress, then why even bother to whine about it ?

    That said, as a Keynesian, I have no doubt that tax cuts for rich people are bad economics – but in one of his speeches the president already hinted that he needs more data to prove that beyond reasonable doubt.

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