Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 11, 2010
POLITICS: Mark Halperin Denies Obama A Third Time
With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.
The complete absence of named sources makes this diagnosis more than a little questionable - not the merits of it, of course, but it's unclear exactly how many of Halperin's friends (in his famous "Gang of 500" press corps) and sources he's speaking for. Jake Tapper, for example, has been fairly skeptical of Obama from the beginning (Tapper's a liberal, as his pre-ABC employment history makes clear, but is also a guy who tries to play it down the middle and has given Obama all sorts of fits dating back to the 2008 primaries), Tweeted that "Just as a general rule: no pundit definitively saying THIS IS WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS THINKS is ever speaking for me, ever ever."
But in Halperin's case, the significance of the column is that it got written at all, as this shows the extent to which Halperin (1) has come to this opinion, although he feels it necessary to couch it in groupthink (Halperin's been a skeptic of Obama and his adoring press coverage for a while, see here, here, and here for some examples) and (2) feels comfortable enough that this is an opinion shared by his colleagues and sources that he won't look silly to them writing it.
Anyway, the perhaps more interesting point is his observations about Obama's tendency - in marked contrast to his predecessor - to go personally on the attack against his partisan opponents:
Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership - or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief.
There's a reason why presidents have traditionally not done this sort of thing very much themselves, and it bodes ill for Obama's ability to accept and accomodate himself to election results this fall that are likely to show a majority of voters rejecting his attacks and excuses.