With the midterm elections fast approaching, the fate of the Democratic majority in the House may hinge on the enthusiasm of the party's liberal base, and its willingness to actually haul its collective ass to the voting booths. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Republican voters have been, and continue to be, a lot more enthusiastic this year. The enthusiasm gap is only made worse when President Obama is pilloried by the "professional left" such as liberal television commentators, who could be, if they were so inclined, the administration's cheerleaders. But many of them haven't been so inclined.
As you might imagine, this situation is frustrating for the White House. Obama has managed, despite the unprecedented permanent threat of a filibuster in the Senate, to pass health-care reform, financial reform, and legislation mandating equal pay for women. He's pulling out of Iraq like he said he would, and is in the process of ending "don't ask, don't tell." Oh, and he saved the auto industry from collapse and prevented the economy from a full depression.
And yet the liberals complain: Health care didn't have a public option! The stimulus wasn't big enough! The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is moving too slowly! Your position on gay marriage is confusing! Obama probably feels like Russell Crowe in Gladiator: "Are you not entertained!?!"
But instead of throwing a sword into the balcony where the professional left is sitting, startling them and knocking over their goblets of wine, he's having Press Secretary Robert Gibbs question their sobriety, and sanity.
“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.”
Who knows whether this is going to win over any converts on the "professional left," but it probably feels damn good to say.
Update: Gibbs is reconsidering the wisdom of attacking his base. Calling his remarks "inartful," Gibbs tells the Huffington Post that "we should all, me included, stop fighting each other and arguing about our differences on certain policies, and instead work together to make sure everyone knows what is at stake because we've come too far to turn back now."