This is election season. The White House is working overtime to change what aides call the “parameters” of the electorate, that is the voting demographics in November. President Obama needs the Democratic base–liberal ideologues, blacks, Hispanics, young people–to get excited again, to volunteer again, to turn out again. So what does Press Secretary Robert Gibbs do? He attacks the “professional left” in The Hill, via Sam Youngman:
“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.” The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”
Suffice it to say, BAD TIMING. There is no doubt that Gibbs is right, to an extent. The nature of our Democracy is that there are some institutions that only thrive in opposition to elected power, even if the power in question mostly agrees. Furthermore, there are some on the left who are simply more progressive than the president, and others who differ with the president on exactly what is politically possible. (No matter how many emails I get stating the contrary, I have yet to be convinced that Obama could have passed health care reform with a robust public option.) But why would Gibbs vent about this now? To reposition the president in the center? Doubtful. The White House is trying to rile the base these days. Seems to me a (Democratic) party foul.
UPDATE: Gibbs has since walked back his comments to Sam Stein at Huffington Post, saying he caught a bit of indigestion from cable news. “I watch too much cable, I admit,” Gibbs said. Read the entire explanation of his “inartful” phrasing here.
On a related topic, isn’t “inartful” the greatest word? It allows you to admit fault, as if your only fault was a lack of artistic vision. In a column a while back, William Safire credited the whole inartful trend of using the word “inartful” to Barack Obama’s staff. Charles Krauthammer had great fun with the word, defining it in the Obama lexicon to mean: “clear and straightforward, lacking the artistry that allows subsequent self-refutation and denial.” Indeed.