President Barack Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, has hurt my feelings. He claims that the “professional left” doesn’t give the President enough credit for what he has accomplished – dwelling instead on what he hasn’t been able to get done. They won’t be satisfied, according to Gibbs, until we have Canadian-style health care and abolish the Pentagon.
I confess that, like Gibbs’ by his own admission, I too watch too much cable news, including what I suppose constitutes a healthy dose of the “professional left.” But unlike Gibbs, I hear the President being credited all the time with what he has been able to accomplish in the face of fierce Republican opposition and resistance from not a few Democrats.
Barack Obama wasn’t my first choice for the Democratic nomination, but when he won it, I went all out to help him win in the general election. When he made health care reform his top priority I cheered, made phone calls, and wrote thousands of words in support. Then, I swallowed my disappointment when he caved into pressure to drop the public option in order the get the bill passed, and supported with reluctance the final severely flawed product. Yes, a Canadian-style health care is exactly what many of us wanted, but we didn’t abandon the President when he abandoned us on that issue.
I have applauded the President’s draw-down of troops from Iraq, but watched with dismay as he has ramped up the war in Afghanistan. But never have I, or anyone I know, including any member of the “professional left,” ever advocated the dismantling of the Pentagon. That is a hyperbolic charge of the type I would expect from the unthinking right wing of the political spectrum instead of the spokesman for the President whom I’ve loyally supported.
This kick in the stomach to the President’s political base comes, admittedly, at a bad time for me. Yesterday, in Colorado where I now live (at the headwaters, if not the full rift, of the Rio Grande), my chosen candidate for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, Andrew Romanoff, lost to Michael Bennet, the incumbent senator appointed to the office two years ago because of his millionaire status and money-raising power. Bennet had never been elected to any office, while Romanoff had been a four-time state representative and speaker of the Colorado House.
Bennet raised three times as much money as Romanoff, mostly from corporate PACs and lobbyists. Romanoff took no money from PACs and raised over 90% of his money from the citizens of Colorado. Romanoff supports a single payer health care system and opposes the huge tax breaks that help give Big Oil its humungous profits. Bennet voted with bank lobbyists against legislation that would keep banks from getting too large to fail, and with oil interests to keep the tax subsidies they don’t need.
Despite the fact that Romanoff clearly stood for the principles we thought we were electing Barack Obama to stand up for, the White House intruded itself into Colorado politics by endorsing and campaigning for Michael Bennet. Now, the Obama administration is saddled with a Democratic candidate in Colorado, like its favored candidate in Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln (who certainly did her part to see that we couldn’t get anything resembling Canadian style health care) – both of whom stand a good chance of losing two Democratic senate seats in November.
Let me make it clear that I will vote for Michael Bennet, and that I hope Blanche Lincoln prevails, because losing those two senate seats to Republicans will only harden the degree of gridlock in Washington. And I’m sure I’ll be voting for Barack Obama in 2012. But I won’t work for any of these candidates the way I worked for Andrew Romanoff.
I am proud to support President Obama, and applaud his real accomplishments. I am not, however, about to refrain from constructive criticism, and don’t appreciate being insulted by his spokesman when I do. Canadian-style health care? You bet. Dismantle the Pentagon? Don’t be silly.
You need us, Mr. Gibbs and Mr. President. How about showing us a little of the respect that you have lavished in a well-meaning but obviously futile effort to win over your actual opponents.