Oh, Here's A New Idea

by digby

I just love it when some "top officials" in the White House run to the press to telegraph their plans to screw their most ardent supporters. It only happens in Democratic administrations, so it's rare, but it looks like we may be about to see more of this treat in the future:

Top officials privately concede the past six weeks have taken their toll on Obama's popularity. But the officials also see the new diminished expectations as an opportunity to prove their critics wrong by signing a health care law, showing progress in Afghanistan, and using this month's anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers to push for a crackdown on Wall Street.

On health care, Obama’s willingness to forgo the public option is sure to anger his party’s liberal base. But some administration officials welcome a showdown with liberal lawmakers if they argue they would rather have no health care law than an incremental one. The confrontation would allow Obama to show he is willing to stare down his own party to get things done.

This makes perfect sense because his problem is that he's been kow-towing to the left so much that he's lost the country, what with all the war crimes investigations, the tax hikes for the rich, the crackdown on the banks, the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" and the thumbing of his nose at the Republicans every chance he gets. Not to mention the plans for full withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan by 2012 and his full blown assault on the health care industry and insistence on a Canadian style health care system. You'd think Obama would have been far, far more cautious so as not to give the Republican freakshow any possible path to demonize them as "far left." It's not like they could just make stuff up and a lot of people in America would believe it, right?

And let's face facts, no president ever lost the good opinion of the village once he triangulated and Sistah Soljahed and "stared down his own party." Unless you count Johnson, Carter and Clinton, of course. Running that game is such a tried and true road to either a one term presidency or an impeachment that it's hard to believe the Republicans don't do the same thing.

Obviously, we don't know if this article is correct or if the "top official" is floating a trial balloon or simply trying to affect the debate inside the White House. (Again, the conventions of American journalism require that we sift through the runes to actually figure out what's going on.) But taking this official at his word that he speaks for the White House on this matter, I can't say I would be surprised if this were the consensus. It's the kind of thing I've seen Democrats do as long as I can remember.

It will be bad enough if Obama capitulates on health care and tries to sell it as a victory. If he also ostentatiously dismisses his base to show he can "stare down his own party" the only celebrations he sees will be held on K Street and Wall Street. The Republicans won't participate, of course. The liberals he armtwists will resent him for forcing them to walk the plank with their own voters. His base will be demoralized and verging on active hostility. The mythical "center" will shrug their shoulders and move on to the next issue. (They are, by their own definition, disloyal.) Only the Blue Dog and DLC politicians who got paid by the medical industry will happily stand by his side at the signing ceremony, with visions of lobbyist cash dancing in their heads. I hope he really, really likes them because they will be the only enthusiastic supporters he has left after this.

I have a question: is it true that Real Americans greatly admire politicians who loathe their own supporters and publicly and repeatedly kick them once they obtain office? I honestly don't know the answer to that, but it seems that the Democrats are convinced of it. It's an interesting psychology, to say the least, but one which I have never understood.

Update: Keep in mind that it ain't over til it's over. Obama is worried about his approval ratings, but he's not stupid. He sees the same legislative roadblocks that everyone else sees and has to realize by now that the path to health care is through the Democratic Party alone. And that means the liberal are still in play whether he likes it or not.