Robert Gibbs on the "professional left": "Those people ought to be drug tested"


The White House goes after critics on its left flank:

"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."

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: "They wouldn't be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president."

Whether Gibbs is trying to smack the disgruntled left back into line, or make a triangulation play for disaffected independents and centrist-Democrats, this attack on nameless carpers strikes me as, among other things, a good deal less than accurate. Yes, there is a contingent still licking their wounds for not getting single-payer health care, but the ongoing lefty criticism of Obama has less to do with not shutting down the Pentagon, and more to do with not shutting down Guantanamo Bay, a much more modest goal that also happened to be something Obama promised every night on the campaign trail. The Krugmanites want a second stimulus, not a socialistic elf-president (who, in case you haven't noticed, has tried running for president several times without making much of a dent).

And though the existence of progressive-left criticism of Obama has been one of the few heartening things about political discourse these past 19 miserable months, I wish more lefties were making the George W. Bush comparison on things like bailouts and spending binges and military surges and WoT detentions and entitlement expansion and Old Europe-tweaking and drug raids and obscenity prosecutions and general bullshittery. Maybe I've just been reading the wrong websites, but I haven't seen much lefty invocations of a Bush Third Term.

Good news for the president, though: The academics are wise enough to know how dreamy he is:

Larry Berman, an expert on the presidency and a political science professor at the University of California-Davis, said he has been surprised that liberals aren't more cognizant of the pragmatism Obama has had to employ to pass landmark reforms.

"The irony, of course, is that Gibbs's frustration reflects the fact that the conservative opposition has been so effective at undermining the president's popular approval," Berman said.

"And from Gibbs's perspective, and the White House perspective, they ought to be able to catch a break from people who, in their view, should be grateful and appreciative."