Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

The Journal Editorial Report -- By WSJ Daniel Henninger's Definition, Everybody on the Right Is A Community Organizer

Reported by Julie - May 2, 2010 -

President Obama is (friggin' finally) beating back his opposition, and the opposition, in the way of the right-wing opposition, doesn't like that whole "shoe on the other foot" thing. On Saturday's (5/1/10) Journal Editorial Report with Paul Gigot, the three guests were, first, not lining up to join President Obama's fan club, and, second, all staunch advocates, apparently, of hypocrisy. Criticism of President Obama aside (just another day on Fox), if you listened carefully to what each guest said, it appears that what they're most critical of is President Obama's . . . honesty. Daniel Henninger, an editor at the Wall Street Journal, said of President Obama, "Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan always tried to present themselves in public as more idealized, perfect human beings, and they sit on a pedestal . . . Barack Obama's problem is that he is taking himself off the pedestal . . . ." (emphasis mine) William McGurn, Rupert Murdoch's speechwriter (who also happens to be George W.'s former speech writer), said, "Generally in a White House you leave that kind of partisan, very partisan edge, to a vice president or other people . . . ." (emphasis mine) Wall Street Journal writer Dorothy Rabinowitz criticized the President's directness, saying, "This is the community organizer . . . ." So . . . I guess it's not what he's saying they object to, it's that he's not hiding behind others who will say it for him. Oy. With video.

Okay, so I never really watched the Journal Editorial Report with Gigot before, until this weekend. As "fair and balanced" goes, Gigot seemed relatively even-handed. On the other hand, the title of his segment was "The President Gets Personal - Steps Up Attacks On Political Opponents." On the other, other hand, he stacked his panel with three people who had a penchant for a strict anti-Obama attitude. I guess I can only say that he seemed better than most on Fox.

Henninger, as well as slamming President Obama for not putting on a public show, also made the claim that "he is losing the broader public support."

"Barack Obama's problem is that he is taking himself off the pedestal," Henninger complained. ". . . I'm convinced . . . he loses a degree of public support . . . His approval rating is under 50%, he cannot afford to lose public support . . . ." Actually, as of late April, an ABC/Washington Post poll showed President Obama with a 54% approval rating. In fact, President Obama's approval numbers have stayed fairly consistent since late August 2009. Even in the face of some controversial moves, President Obama has enjoyed solid polling numbers -- which puts the lie to the fact that President Obama "cannot afford to lose public support." President Obama doesn't fear that, anyway -- as he said early on, he was going to do what he could to accomplish his goals, even if it meant he would be a one-term President.

Gigot asked McGurn about the general rules of taking on the opposition. McGurn readily agreed with Henninger, saying, "Dan basically got to the nub of the point . . . You're President of all people, at least in public . . . a President kind of has to accentuate the positive . . . ." Are we starting to see a right-wing pattern emerge here? Do whatever you want behind the scenes, but for the love of Pete, fake it in public!

Gigot played devil's advocate, asking whether it isn't the "proper role" for a president to mobilize the base.

McGurn seemed to generally agree, but added what I'll call the Caveat of Hypocrisy: "Generally in a White House you leave that kind of partisan, very partisan edge, to a vice president or other people . . . if they view you as just one of them you've lost your stature . . . You need to be a little bit above that kind of bitter fray . . . most Presidents accentuate the positive . . . " Well, yeah, Bush had Rove, and Cheney. It's a crying shame that President Obama hasn't yet selected anyone from his Administration to cower behind.

Rabinowitz weighed in with a partisan jab: "If I may excuse myself from worrying about whether he's doing himself any good . . . he sees himself as the President of 'our side' and they're the enemy . . . This is the Community Organizer . . . ." You know what, she's right. President Obama's years as a community organizer prepared him to stand on the side of the people -- which he's doing, effectively, as our President. He doesn't shirk his responsibilities in the face of shockingly irresponsible opposition. I think most non-Koolaid-drinkers recognize that this President had a reasonableness and patience when he came into office that has been virtually wrung out of him by the rabid anti-Obama sentiments of the Republicans, and the unanimous opposition from the right to everything he's tried to accomplish. We're now seeing a President with a core of steel whose patience has worn thin -- and the Republicans, thinking he'd be their punching bag for four years, are pretty damn pissed that he decided to take off the gloves and land a few. I'm taking out the world's smallest violin -- anybody want to join me?

Gigot put some words in Rabinowitz' mouth, saying that this is what the President really believes, that the other side is the enemy.

Rabinowitz got cutesy, saying, "I think of Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens very often . . . ."

Gigot, again playing devil's advocate, said, "Democrats would say . . . he got healthcare reform. How is this not working for him? They would say, it is working."

Henninger, taking the double standard to new heights, said, "This is the primary political strategy . . . it is a community organizer strategy which is to define your opposition as being against 'the good' . . . ." Really, this is a community organizer strategy? Are all the Republicans in Congress and, for that matter, most of the talking heads on the right, community organizers, then? When John Boehner referred to healthcare reform as "Armageddon" and said it would ruin our country, was this not pitting evil [the President] against 'the good' [the Republicans]? When Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin talk about socialism and communism and taking back our country and, I don't know, death panels, and how we'll all die or something if President Obama succeeds with his agenda, is this not pitting evil [the President] against 'the good' [the right-wingers]? Isn't that what the teabaggers, er, tea party goers and leaders are all about, pitting evil [the Obama Administration] against 'the good' [the tea party people]? So many community organizers that we never knew about.

Gigot pretended to paraphrase, but actually gave Henninger the goods, asking, "Is it working for him . . . is it working in the short term but you're saying the costs will be longer term?" Henninger never said that, but once Gigot fed him the lines, he of course enthusiastically embraced the notion.

"That is exactly what I'm saying . . .," Henninger said enthusiastically. "They've managed to make some progress here but he is losing the broader public support . . . independent voters have already moved away from Barack Obama to a great extent . . . I think he'll regret what he's been doing."

McGurn agreed heartily, adding, "You can do this when you're at top but you create a lot of resentment that comes back to haunt you later on when you're not as popular."

Hmmm . . . I'm sure McGurn is speaking from experience -- with another President -- but I kind of think it's apples and oranges at this point, comparing President Obama to the train wreck that was George W. And there's a larger element at work here -- President Obama DOESN'T hide behind his underlings. He's a stand-up guy. He says what he thinks. He's reasonable and patient until it's time to not be reasonable and patient. He gave the Republicans a chance to work with him, but when they refused, he dismissed them and moved on. He took the jabs, the slings and arrows, for a good long time with grace and aplomb, but when the barrage showed no signs of abating, he made it crystal clear he wasn't gonna be anybody's bitch.

President Obama is a reasonable guy, but even he has his limits. As an attorney in Chicago once told me, "When people want to battle in the sewer, sometimes -- whether you want to or not -- there's no choice but to grab a snorkel and jump."