Defending the pragmatic president
August 11th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Defending the pragmatic president

By Fareed Zakaria

The air is thick with liberal disappointment. In the days after the debt deal, liberal politicians and commentators took to the airwaves and op-ed pages to mourn the agreement. But their ire was directed not at the Tea Party or even the Republicans but rather at Barack Obama, who they concluded had failed as a President because of his persistent tendency to compromise.

As the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait brilliantly points out, this criticism stems from a liberal fantasy that if only the President would give a stirring speech, he would sweep the country along with the sheer power of his poetry. In this view, writes Chait, “every known impediment to the legislative process—special interest lobbying, the filibuster, macroeconomic conditions, not to mention certain settled beliefs of public opinion—are but tiny stick huts trembling in the face of the atomic bomb of the presidential speech.”

But the idea abides. On Aug. 9, the MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan raged on TV that Obama should just give such a speech, overriding Congress and taking charge. But the most revealing moment came minutes after Ratigan’s rant, when his panel of experts pressed him as to what specifically he would want Obama to do once he had usurped power. Ratigan’s answer: allow corporations to re patriate their overseas profits (presumably by reducing or waiving corporate taxes on the money) to fund a national infrastructure bank. So the great liberal dream is that Obama propose something that he has already proposed and fund it by giving multinationals a tax break.

Read the rest in TIME Magazine (behind a paywall).

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Topics: From Fareed • Politics

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. N.C. Weber

    It feels like liberals aren't exactly clear on what being liberal actually means.

    August 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Reply
    • lemonton

      Liberals are clear. Zakaria is not clear.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:46 am | Reply
    • Jim

      It's okay. Fareed is part of the propaganda CiaNN machine. He can't quite understand why more people are watching that one DR speech than will ever watch the fake news with it's grinning mendacity. It's a thing called, integrity. America lost it on November 22, 1963, when we turned our collective gaze the other way as our values were trampled. I am no DR watcher, either, but now I just might be. I was a liberal once, and watched MSNBC until I realized they weren't more enlightened, they were just playing the other side of a rigged game. I'm not a liberal anymore; I'm an American.

      Start caring, America. Stop fighting amongst yourselves in the fake dialectic they give you and target those criminals who have destroyed our nation.

      August 19, 2011 at 10:05 am | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Out of our current point of view, many of us might find Obama weak and all too ready to compromise. Maybe in a year's time, we would take back what we had said. In hindsight one often sees, that things were not so bad as they had seemed.

    August 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  3. Wally

    If anything the debt ceiling debacle has taught us is that right now we have a leadership void. We as a country seem lost in this political death match which has become what passes for our Congress. We need someone to step up and lead, the Republicans have proven they are not interested in governing they are only interested in obstructing, and the Democrats can't get any consensus on what they want to do. So we have what appears to be no direction and the person who has historically filled that void has been the President. So whether in the past it was their choice or that the situation dictated the choice, the President filled that role. I'm hoping he is up to the task!!!

    August 11, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  4. lynx Owe

    It is is foolish to expect the President to solve our economic problems. The problem is Congress who has for years glossed over the cost of War and and a Volunteer Army. Just wave the flag and right away to not provide limitless funds for our world police force becomes unpatriotic.We lose our competeitive economic edge with Europe and the rest of the world by providing them with our Military and they maintain none to speak of. There are of course other serious spending problems but with an undereducated populace and a corporate owned media it is nearly impossible to message truth loud enough for it to be heard.

    August 11, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  5. Matunos

    While its true that some on the left hold unreasonable expectations, there's a bits of a straw man argument here.

    Not all liberals expect the president to either usurp power or single-handedly turn the tides of public opinion in their favor. Firstly, many of the policies that liberals want, like increased taxes on the rich, are already supported by a majority of the public. Secondly, it is often worth taking a stand for something even if you ultimately fail, or compromise on it.

    Asking Obama to put up a little more of a fight, and (one hopes) pull a little more out of the eventual negotiations, is not the same as demanding a no-compromise approach; although that being said, the no-compromise approach seems to be working swimmingly for the GOP, who ought to have an even more uphill battle for any policy agenda since they only control half the legislature.

    August 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Reply
  6. BLB

    Pragmatic is the key work – roll up your sleeves and get some honest work done – the blame game – having characteristics of an adolescent.

    August 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  7. lemonton

    Who wrote this article actually has no idea what is a Liberal. Or maybe he does have an idea and just want to ridicule Liberals by painting them as the baby Cantors of the Left with silly arguments like Liberals want Obama to give a speech. Actually Liberals are tired of Barack Obama speeches. What we want for a chance are Barack Obama actions and actions that do not involve bending over to the GOP for the sake of bipartism. Yes, there is real Liberal disappointment with Barack Obama because we thought he would be a fighter. Meaning someone who takes the bullies by the horns regardless the consequences and then take the presidential megaphone and give the necessary speeches to gather the public support for his fights against the GOP bullies. That is real leadership. But Obama wimpy leadership is asking the GOP what they want and then give them 1.5 times that to seal the deal. With that pattern it is obvious what the GOP will ask next, 2-3 times knowing they could extort like get 4-5 times. Sounds familiar? Call that leadership a la Barack Obama. Yes we are disappointed with Barack Obama and no we don't want any more Obama speeches.

    August 13, 2011 at 2:42 am | Reply
  8. BuildOurAmerica

    Posted "YOA: Fareed Zakaria’s Misleading Defense of Obama"

    August 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  9. Karl Bonner

    Yawn. Here we go again. Paint liberals as immature and delusional, and attack their policy proposals as impractical. Mr. Zakaria seems to believe that if the Republicans say it's 80 degrees outside and the Democrats say it's 60, it must in fact be exactly 70.

    A real pragmatist would stand up to the business and financial lobby and push for regulations with some real teeth. A real pragmatist would argue in favor of a much larger stimulus, THEN compromise if necessary. A real pragmatist wouldn't be afraid to remind us that far-right radicals are still far-right radicals, no matter how much political clout they have. A real pragmatist would have dared Republicans in the 2009-10 Senate to actually follow through with their filibuster threats.

    Zakaria is often a very eloquent and pragmatic thinker, but this article and the TV version (you can find it on Youtube) have got to be the most arrogant and flippant ones I've heard in a long time.

    August 27, 2011 at 4:52 am | Reply
  10. ydp

    My son says whosoever killed the most wanted enemy of our country and made life safer is the most pragmatic president.

    January 12, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Reply

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