What liberals fantasize about
August 13th, 2011
06:35 AM ET

What liberals fantasize about

Thursday night I was on Charlie Rose talking with Drew Westen, a professor of psychology at Emory University and Jonathan Chait, a senior editor with The New Republic.

Drew wrote a provocative article in the New York Times called What happened to Obama? It's a scathing critique of President Obama's leadership.  Then, in a brilliant blog post, Jonathan Chait called Drew's argument a fantasy.  Next, I responded to a slew of liberal critiques of President Obama in TIME Magazine and on the Global Public Square.

Here's a lightly edited excerpt of our conversation where I discuss the fantasy of liberals and why many need to grow up.

Charlie Rose: Drew, make the case that you made as to why you are disappointed with the leadership of President Obama and the significance you believe of narrative.

Drew Westen:  I guess I’ll start by saying just from that clip that you just played, which I hadn’t heard before but I think it’s a prime example is that the President blamed the problem on Congress.  He didn’t say - and he blamed the problem on the lack of quote/unquote "Congress" to - to be able to - to negotiate in good faith and to compromise.

The problem is actually isn’t the problem in Congress, it’s the problem that one side of Congress is actually not willing to negotiate and the other side was willing to negotiate away most of its core principles.

So that kind of rhetoric may help the President in his re-election efforts,  looking like he is the grown-up who’s above the fray.  But in fact what he’s just done is actually to take one more shot at his own party, which is trying to be incredibly conciliatory along with him and they’re getting pretty tired of what a lot of them feel is one capitulation after another on core principles.

Charlie Rose:  And you want him to do what?

Drew Westen:  I want him to act like a Democrat.  No, I take - I take that back.  I’d like to him to act like a Republican, which is to have some convictions and stick with it.  Stick with them....

Starting from his first days of office he should essentially have said to the American people, “Look, I know you’re hurting; I know you’re scared; I know you’re angry.”

Remember where we were in 2009 when he gave his inaugural address.  We were losing 750,000 jobs per month.  The Dow had dropped from over 14,000 to 6,600.

Everyone was hurting; everyone was scared; the entire economy had come to a standstill and if he’d simply said to the American people "Look, I know you’re feeling this way; this was not a natural disaster; this was not an act of God; this was a disaster caused by men.  It was caused by greedy men on Wall Street who made a bunch of decisions that affected your lives, that are taking away your jobs and are taking away your homes."

Charlie Rose:  Jonathan, you have been critical of the President but you look at what Drew has just said and you say what?

Jonathan Chait:  It’s a dramatic overestimation of the power of rhetoric to affect policies in Congress and to affect public opinion.  There’s just not a lot of evidence that it has anything like the effect that he [Drew Westen] says.  He brought up Franklin Roosevelt in his New York Times piece; Roosevelt being the counterexample to Obama as the person who told the story to the public and got them to believe it.

But the evidence actually shows that the public didn’t believe it.  The public never bought the idea that using stimulus to put people to work is an appropriate use of government resources.  Now, Roosevelt won anyway.  He had a rising economy.  He had the votes in Congress.  But what that shows is that those are the things that actually affect political outcomes.

CHARLIE ROSE:  All right.  So Fareed comes along, he’s got to write a column.  This is putty in his hands because he not only can quote the two of you, he can quote Bart Giamatti, not bad, and a constitutional lawyer named Alexander Bickel, who I studied in law school.

So you read both of these articles and you make what point?

Fareed Zakaria:  The way I look at it, Jonathan is entirely right but he doesn’t go far enough for my purposes.  As Jonathan says in a very brilliant blog post, this is the version of the American presidency you get from Aaron Sorkin in The American President.

The President gets up, and makes this incredibly moving speech which is, of course, deeply liberal.  The entire country cheers and all of a sudden all the problems that he encounters are waved aside.  You remember in the movie, of course, it was gun control and environmentalism that were the big problems.

The idea that if Barack Obama were to give a speech on gun control, suddenly he would be able to wave aside the Second Amendment and the settled convictions of a large percentage of Americans, we would recognize as nonsense.

The reality is that Obama is working within a very constrained political environment.  The country is split about 50-50.  We have this phenomenon of the Tea Party that has energized the Republican Party and a good bit of the country.  Don’t forget, 25 percent of the American public identifies with the Tea Party.  So within that context, look at what he’s done.

I’m puzzled by Drew Westen’s remarks.  This is the guy who’s passed the largest stimulus program in American history.  He’s passed universal health care, a Democratic aspiration since Harry Truman.  He’s passed the largest overhaul and the expansion of regulations on the financial sector.  He’s now been trying desperately to do more with regard to jobs.

That’s a pretty impressive package and I frankly put it up against - I don’t know, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and I’m a little hard pressed to see what the great liberal betrayal has been other than from some kind of fantasy version of liberalism where finally a Democratic president comes in and America becomes, I don’t know, Sweden.

A, that’s not what most Americans want.  B, that’s certainly not where Barack Obama is, politically.  So why are we so surprised that he’s ended up being a somewhat left-of-center pragmatist?

Drew Westen:  Fareed, in all due respect, when you say that this is what the American people wanted, actually, the American people want the exact opposite.  The American people have said since day one of this administration, "We want jobs."  They said in a CNN poll that just came out, they said by 2-1, 'Deficits versus jobs, we care about jobs.'

That’s what they were worried about from the start.  I can tell you because I’ve studied public opinion.  I’ve watched it very closely.  The strongest thing you can say to the average American to get their juices up from right-of-center to left-of-center is something that’s really close to their hearts, which is "I want to see the words 'Made in America' again. I want to see jobs back in this country."  And that’s the agenda that the President could have and should have pushed and didn’t.

Jonathan Chait:  Look, these are two inaccuracies that I saw in the original column.  Number one, Obama did hold the line in the budget negotiations with the Republicans.  He said if you don’t agree to increase revenue on wealthy Americans, I will not agree to entitlement cuts.  And that’s precisely what happened and that’s the line he’s drawn in the subsequent negotiations.  There’s no reason to think that he won’t do it.  Now you can predict the future, but when you said that he gave in on this point, that’s simply not true.

Second of all, Americans do want jobs, but they don’t see that as being in conflict with the goal of cutting the deficit in the short run.  Now, I think they’re wrong.  Most economists think they’re wrong.  But moving public opinion as the Roosevelt demonstration shows is just not very easy.

Fareed Zakaria:  The American people, to be honest, want jobs and they want the budget deficit cut.  They, by and large, don’t want many new taxes other than on the very rich.  They don’t want Medicare cut; they want Social Security preserved; they don’t want the interest deduction on mortgages to be taken away; but they want many large cuts.

This is a conglomeration of incompatible desires.  So you can’t sit there and parse this.

Charlie Rose:  But do they, for example, want those so-called rich to pay their fair share?

Fareed Zakaria:  Yes.  But that doesn’t get you enough money, as you know, Charlie.  I mean, the big money is in the big middle-class programs.

And to Drew’s point again, why is Obama worried about this?  We have a budget deficit that is 10 percent of GDP.  It’s the second-highest in the industrialized world.  We have a gross national debt that will approach 100 percent in three or four years.

We’re not in the 1930s when government debt was minuscule in comparison.  We can’t just say, "Let’s spend $5 trillion jump starting the economy and see where that gets us."

Look at what’s happening in Europe.  The French are now having difficulty.  The Italians are having difficulty.  These are major economies.  So I don’t think it is so outlandish and it does not show that Obama has been captured by bankers that he is properly concerned that there is some outer limit about how much you can spend and therefore a long-term deficit reduction plan is the right thing.

Again, to Jonathan, one of the points that’s important to make here is Obama has not agreed to savage cuts in the budget.  He agreed to only $20 billion in 2012.  All the cuts are back loaded which, frankly, means that who knows whether they’ll even happen.

In reality, the only cuts that are going to happen are $20 billion in 2012.  That does not strike me as savage budget cutting right now.

Visit CharlieRose.com for the full video.

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    "The American people, to be honest, want jobs and they want the budget deficit cut. They, by and large, don’t want many new taxes other than on the very rich. They don’t want Medicare cut; they want Social Security preserved; they don’t want the interest deduction on mortgages to be taken away; but they want many large cuts. This is a conglomeration of incompatible desires." Well, folks, may God speed America!

    August 13, 2011 at 8:59 am | Reply
  2. Sun Sherman

    For those who are democrats and criticize Obama , is because they can. Obama is not a president of China, where he can impose his idea without opposition. The current democrats who are hurling critics at Obama should ask two things to themselves. 1. Who would they rather have after 2012 . and 2. The reason why Obama could not fulfill his remaining campaign promises yet is not because Tea Party swept the congress but because we collectively as democrats were lazy and chose not to vote in Nov 2010. It was one of the lowest % of voting by democrats in any congressional election. Therefore for prof. Drew Weston, and folks who agree with him, should take a dose of self criticism.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:23 am | Reply
  3. Linda J

    I'm disappointed in Fareed's thoughts. I think the American people want a logical proposal/proposals to put our house in order. We want real reform. Not phoney health care reform and phoney deficit reduction and phoney financial and banking reform or phoney anything that panders to money wielding special interest groups. We want the kind of ideas presented by the CEO of Pepsi on your show – creative, visionary and yes! – pragmatic. I'm not a liberal or even a Democrat and I worked hard for Obama because I thought he might be smart enough to be creative.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:45 am | Reply
    • G. Sam


      August 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Reply
    • pebbles

      You want all that? Then work for a truly Democratic Congress in 2012. At least 60 in the Senate and no less than 218 in the House. Without those numbers, the GOP will continue to block and water down everything the President tries to do.

      August 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Reply
  4. Leonard Novick

    I believe Obama still has the charisma and inspirational oratory skills to get that 50% of the country off our butts and into the streets of Washington demonstrating for what he and we allegedly believe in. But in his self-assumed straight jacket role as the Great Consensus Maker he simply can't mobilize anymore. And that ability to mobilize is one of his greatest strengths. Or was.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:16 am | Reply
  5. Daniel

    Why did you leave out the part where you critique Westen on the basis that he hasn't run for office? Can you please tell us what office you've run for?

    August 13, 2011 at 10:53 am | Reply
  6. Dolores M. Joyce

    I believe history will show Barack Obama to be one of our great presidents. His democratic colleagues should be supporting his efforts. He is fighting a Republican Party that is intent on insuring his downfall. The fact that politicians openly state that they hope the President's programs and policies fail is abhorrent. What happened to supporting your President???. We need to be wary of the subversives we have in our own government. It is not terrorists from Afghanistan or Iraq or Pakistan that we need to worry about. It is the terrorists in our own government. The American people need to open their eyes. Understand what the Republicans are trying to accomplish. The downgrade was caused by Republican tactics. They will do whatever it takes to ensure Barack Obamas's downfall even to the detriment of the United State of America!!!!

    August 13, 2011 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • Sean

      So true my friend.. We must help our brothers and sisters to wake up, it is easy to debunk almost every current republican philosophy. Fox news isn't helping.

      August 13, 2011 at 11:54 am | Reply
      • G. Sam

        Why must we help? The Lord helps those who help themselves.

        August 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • CK

      Exactly, Dolores! I cannot for the life of me understand how people don't grasp this!! It boggles the mind. Your assessment is spot on. What the Republican Party is doing should be (by their own 'standards') classified as nothing short of treason. What is so hard to understand about what these people stand for and how they manipulate the naivete of the public to pin it on the President? Absurd. Simply absurd.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • G. Sam

      You need meds!

      August 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  7. danny

    ,,the country going to hell.. no jobs , no future , let`s just give the rich all of our money,,i don`t think that would even satisfy them..,soon all the wealthy people will be fighting over who controls more and more,, this makes me sick to my stomach,when is enough is enough,, i know i have had enough , the country has had enough,,,,RICH OR POOR ,WE ARE ALL AMERICANS,, LET`S STAND TOGETHER AND TEAR DOWN THE WALLS GEORGE BUSH BUILT BETWEEN THE CLASSES,,

    August 13, 2011 at 11:26 am | Reply
  8. Phil in Oregon

    The fact that the country is so evenly divided on issues enables Congress to say "this is what the American people want..." for EVERYTHING. I've heard both sides in Congress say it, and Obama is probably right there with them. When push meets shove, some Americans aren't going to get everything they want. Somebody needs to apply some simple math to the situation, and stop trying to buy votes.

    August 13, 2011 at 11:31 am | Reply
  9. Susan in Oakland, CA

    I watched this program on Charlie Rose. Fareed Zakari and Jonathan Chiat like to portray progressives as naive dreamers who are uncomfortable with power and get in their own way. I do not agree. It is the bold and often unpopular progressive vision throughout our history, whether fully realized or not, that has been responsible for the greatest transformation in our country. A few overarching examples, each of which contain many smaller battles fought along the way are: civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, workers rights, and more. Drew Westen is being criticized because he wants our president to create a vision (or as he calls it, a narrative) and take more of a stand for what is truly needed in our country today. And to give another overarching example of our time is the vast and still growing income inequality, the shrinking middle class and increase of working and non-working poor over the past 40 years. Drew Westen is bold enough to say our president is not giving our country a needed narrative to address the real problems we face. And he is correct. If liberals are those who dare to dream and are uncomfortable with ill-gotten and undeserved power (through Citizens United and lobbying dollars) then I say we need a lot more of these "dreamers" and fewer self-limiting pragmatists AND we need a leader who is not afraid to talk about these and help shape the narrative and direction of our country through compelling facts and stories rather than simply focusing on compromise for its own sake–which is weak and ineffective in the face of what our true priorities are at this time.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Reply
    • JahLove63

      Articulately argued and I totally agree with you. Create a great day!

      August 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • Lee in Chicago

      A pragmatist and a visionary are not mutually exclusive. I think President Obama does have a vision for this country, and to make the vision a reality requires cooperation from the Senate and the Congress, most of all from his own party. The Democrats cannot just sit on the sideline and criticize him for not doing enough of what they want.

      August 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Reply
      • Susan in Oakland, CA

        I certainly agree Lee that a pragmatist and visionary are not mutually exclusive. And please remember that the majority of Dems in Congress have been supporting the president's compromises time and time again–from healthcare reform, to financial reform. Yes, when he passed the Bush tax cuts in December that was hard for may progressives to take and they were vocal about it–but he got the votes and it passed, much to the detriment of the country. Perhaps a question that needs to be asked is not so much how Obama is doing, but how the great majority of people in our country are doing. We have a long way to go on that front. Perhaps that is something we can agree on.

        August 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  10. Michelle G

    I sure wish Congress would stop worrying about what the American people want and start talking about what is good for the country as a whole.

    August 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Reply
    • Onesmallvoice

      I totally agree, Michele G. First of all, we need to get out of all these useless and unnecessary wars that we're currently in, then make very deep cuts in the needless military spending and finally, make the very wealthy pay their fair share of the taxes. Unfortunately, with the Conservative fanatics running things on Capitol Hill, none of these things are likely to happen as these people only care about themselves!

      August 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Reply

    (FALLEN ANGELS IN prison and jails A new demonic BLACK AMERICA has arisen from both the hiphop and antebellum nations and is based on sterotypical images of low class , poverty stricken and criminally prone blacks and has replace the black human population who were wipout during the black holocaust in the years between 1968 and 2000. It was the rise of the black hiphop culture which glorified black on black violence as well as the widespead use of racial profiling is what has contribute to the black holocaust.

    August 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Reply

    Fallen angels in prison and in jails . Many white feminists and those whites who have a long history of embracing white supremacy were trick in beliving that it will be easy to get rid of ANDRE(mark for death) HIMES unaware about power of the holy lamb of GOD who has been guarding his life since the day he was born at SHAW AIR FORCE ON APRIL 30 1965 heaven who has chosen to be a living witness to his human enemies. EZEKIEL CAHPTER 36

    August 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Reply
  13. Lee in Chicago

    I watched the so-called presidential debate of the Republicans and RIck Perry announcing his candidacy. I have to say if anyone of those candidates becomes the President, we will be in more trouble than we are in now. Other than blaming President Obama, I heard nothing solid in terms of improving the conditions the country is in. Democrats are known for self-destruction, so their criticism of Obama is one of their self-destructive ways? Fareed is right, some Democrats overlooked what Obama has accomplished–universal health care, and the largest overhaul and the expansion of regulations on the financial sector. Some people need to grow up!

    August 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  14. vicarious1

    I watched it and very disagree with Fareed and Jonathan Chait. Simply put their take is based on TWO arguments. First, so what if Obama has been more of a centrist than liberals expected? That is just fine enough and it is a good thing AND the other being that liberal or not, he has acted as best as any democratic president could under the given situation. In other words Obama, has been unwilling or unable to the adequately represent his liberal base but they should just suck it, quit complaining and support him. Both arguments are flawed.
    For the FIRST, let us consider the highly improbable presidency of Barack Hussein Obama. Here is a young Black man with a Muslim name and, to some, a dubious family background, coming from nowhere and ascending to the highest office in the land. No one, no one, foresaw it. The only reason it happened was that the country was hungry and ready for a big change. The sweeping feeling among liberals and defining chunk of independents was that, over the last three decades, the pendulum had swung too far to the right, with disastrous consequences, and now it was the moment for it to reverse direction. ANY democratic candidate would have likely beaten McCain but Obama won over Hillary by seeming to represent a more radical directional change (and he indeed sung a different tune while campaigning) over someone who was thought to be a more of a status-quoist. This was Obama’s MANDATE. The hour demanded a change of tone and fuller repudiation of the conservative philosophy that has been ascendant since 1980 and it every measurable way has failed the average working American. A strong and relentless push back was needed (vs. triangulation and incremental change). Obama and his team have definitively failed at that. That is the reason why we find ourselves (against the wishes of a majority of the country) talking deficits as the main issue rather than jobs. Paradoxically, this is also the reason why they were unable to peel away any centrist republicans: by failing to point fingers and direct anger where needed, all groundswell against republican ideas and party just died out after the elections and no vulnerable/moderate republicans felt pressured to defend or step back from the most egregious stands of their party.
    And this is why the SECOND argument that Obama has done the best as anyone could is not believable. More effective presidents have been able to achieve a lot more with less support. In his first two years, he was certainly more advantaged than George W. Bush ever was or was Bill Clinton in his second term. Obama was able to get achieve because of lack of skills, strategy and ,yes, conviction and cojones. ‘Electoral skills’, it turns out, are not the same as ‘(Washington) political skills’.

    August 13, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  15. Isabelle Idler

    I have to say that I have to agree on this one! http://www.insuranceadjustertraining.net

    August 14, 2011 at 12:53 am | Reply
  16. Isabelle Idler

    Certainly unimpressive! Especially when previous leaders have achieved more with such little support. http://www.insuranceadjustertraining.net

    August 14, 2011 at 12:54 am | Reply
  17. Cam Rankin

    Um? Yeah, this is America, winners win and losers lose. This is still the land of opportunity, but the more Government gets involved the more f'd up it will get. Doesn't matter if it's Democrats, Republican or Tea Sippers. We need to focus on innovation and good old fashion hard work. If you can't make it in America, then you can't make it anywhere! Don't blame our government for your problems. JFK once said "It's not what can your country do for you, What can you do for your country!" God Bless the United States!

    August 14, 2011 at 3:16 am | Reply
    • Gwen Lebec

      Then it would be nice to see you Republicans doing something for the country instead of giving all of its wealth to the top 1%. Using the federal government to collect taxes from the rest of us to shovel to cronies through the federal contracting process is using the government to "do for you" – not doing "for your country."

      August 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Reply
  18. Steven James Beto

    The Republican right's criticism of President Obama's leadership is a little like the Shakespearean shrew whose obdurant behavior sabotages her relationships and then blames her suitor for not beating her.

    August 14, 2011 at 4:30 am | Reply
  19. martinex

    You are wrong Mr. Zakaria. The Democrats continue to lose the philosophical debate because they refuse to accept their role as a liberal party. Don't believe me? Ask any democrat if they considers themselves liberal. Then ask any republican where their loyalties lie. The fact is that despite claims to the contrary America needs a strong federal government. One that protects small businesses from being gobbled up by monopolies. One that protects investors from fraudulent trade practices. A government that protects our waterways and the air we breathe. One that guarantees a living wage to it's citizens. A government that doesn't cower in the face of wealth and power. These are the arguments that democrats should be making. A viable counterpoint to the Republican picture of a privatized future completely run by corporations and robber barons. Instead they allow the right to skew the argument so far to the right that the elderly vote against health care reform even though it will most likely lead to reduced medicare benefits. Working class Americans vote against collective bargaining even though it will mean continued wage stagnation and the loss of benefits. This president has never stood up and made his case. He's been running for re-election since inauguration day. Negotiation usually means two differing views meet somewhere in the middle. John Boehner correctly estimated that Republicans got 98 percent of what they wanted in the debt ceiling negotiations. I ask you, what kind of f'ing compromise is that?

    August 14, 2011 at 6:47 am | Reply
  20. Leftist

    I agree completely with Drew Westen's early comment " to have some convictions and stick with it. Stick with them...." This is the problem that the left has with President Obama. He continued with Republican policies of extreme rendition and secret US prisons. He hasn't closed Guantanamo, he didn't demand a public option in his health care act. He didn't let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire. He didn't insist on increased revenues in the recent deficit reduction agreement. President Obama has let the left down time and again.
    Fareed Zakaria's accusation that we on the left believe that a well delivered presidential speech will get us what we want is insulting in the extreme. Eloquence is not what we want. Shared convictions put into action are! President Obama ran on a platform that expressed shared convictions with the left. I no longer believe that he has those convictions. Given that, I believe that it is time for the left to abandon President Obama.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:18 am | Reply
  21. Gwen Lebec

    I am a conservative Democrat, not a liberal, who is disappointed in Obama. I am happy with centerist positions, but Obama begins at right of center and negotiates to the right. His results end up being far to the right of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, or George H. W. Bush and drift into the Wingnut range of the Right. That is NOT the change that anyone voted for. I also don't expect him to be the only storyteller for Democratic views. He should, however, be encouraging the public to follow him rather than leaving us all in the lurge. Also, as the head of the Democratic Party (he WAS elected as a Democrat) it is his responsibility to set an agenda and make sure that someone in the party is running a storytelling machine. Sorry, Fareed, but you too are getting rich from the corporate – media machine that is screwing the rest of us. From your global point of view it may not matter to you if Americans become the low wage workers of the world – but it does to us who do not share your rarified position.

    August 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  22. tim

    Fareed, I usually enjoy your perspectives, but today, you have proven yourself a either a dolt or a backstabber like our fabulist president. What you say about Obama, his centrist views and his actions arising from that stand... may that be so – BUT, that was not the platform he ran on-!!
    Had I and many others known THIS was what he had planned for the country, he would not sit in the WH. For sure.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  23. Richard Moore

    I am disappointed that Fareed feels a need to serve as an apologist for a very weak President. The problem is not rhetoric or compromise. The problem is that the man is economically clueless, has no discernible plan for recovery, has no specific program to bring our debt under control, and surrounds himself with like minded – ill informed staff. Let's get real, regardless of your political stripes, recognise this administration has incompetence as a primary history.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  24. Obi M

    I don't blame Obama for being willing to compromise. Anyone with common sense who looks at the US economy knows that one side would not be able to solve this; only a concerted approach of spending cuts and tax revenue increases would have any chance of alleviating this dilemma.
    However, I think an area of criticism might come from the fact that Obama seems to rational to play what I'd like to call "The Game of Washington". I think Obama envisioned that when he went to Washington, he would be able to calm down the partisanship and foster rational discourse about the right way to move the US forward. He went there with strong convictions about what he thought were the best ideas to move the US forward; but he also came with a willingness to take into account the arguments of the opposition. That has for the most part has failed.
    I am not saying that the GOP is not capable of rational discourse. I think he just doesn't want to acknowledge the winner-take-all nature of Washington politics. The primary desire of both parties is TO STAY IN POWER. As Obama tries to take the middle ground, it only pushes the right further to the right to counter. There is no doubt that the country has swayed to the right in the past 3 years. The result is a compromise which the dems view as a compromise, while the right decry as far-left. To get at a true middle when negotiating with a far right, you have to start at the far left.
    Additionally, Obama's rationality works against him when it comes to standoffs because in a game of bluffing, the rational person loses every time. Only when both sides are seen by each other as being willing to detonate the US economy and blame the other side is true equitable compromise possible.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  25. Aida

    Thank you Fareed for being the Adult among Journalist.
    Yes, we Liberals need to grow up.
    Thank you for reigning Charlie Rose in as well. We are not
    sorry we didn't elect Hilary.

    August 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  26. Trip Richert

    Other posts have failed to go through. This is a test.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Reply
  27. Marjorie

    I was unusually disappointed in Fareed's condescending critique of Drew Weston's NY Times piece. For many of us, it was spot on and I am quite grown up, thank you very much. There is nothing childish about wanting a President to negotiate from a position of strength rather than caution especially when dealing with those who are actually behaving like children, i.e., the Republicans. This was not helpful to our national discussion and was beneath the usual intellectual honesty I expect.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:51 am | Reply
  28. Bill Wolfe

    What evidence is Chait referring to to support this statement?

    Jonathan Chait: It’s a dramatic overestimation of the power of rhetoric to affect policies in Congress and to affect public opinion. There’s just not a lot of evidence that it has anything like the effect that he [Drew Westen] says. He brought up Franklin Roosevelt in his New York Times piece; Roosevelt being the counterexample to Obama as the person who told the story to the public and got them to believe it.

    But the evidence actually shows that the public didn’t believe it. The public never bought the idea that using stimulus to put people to work is an appropriate use of government resources. Now, Roosevelt won anyway. He had a rising economy. He had the votes in Congress. But what that shows is that those are the things that actually affect political outcomes.

    August 15, 2011 at 7:55 am | Reply
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