I'd suggest that a lot of people on both the left and right don't do that and - as I said the other day - simply project onto him their own expectation of politicians. Doing so means that many on the left would have missed what he said when Charlie Rose asked him how he responds to those who say he is simply "Bush light" on national security issues.
I think its fair to say that there are going to be folks on the left - and now what amuses me is folks on the right who were fine when it was a republican president but now Obama's coming in with the black helicopters - who are not yet going to be satisfied. I've got to tell you though Charlie, I think this is a healthy thing because its a sign of maturity that this debate would not have been taking place 5 years ago. And I welcome it. I really do because - contrary to what some people think - the longer I'm in this job the more I believe on the one hand, that most folks in government are trying to do the right thing. They work really hard, they're really dedicated...On the other hand, what I also believe is its useful to have a bunch of critics out there who are checking government power and who are making sure we are doing things right so that if we've triple-checked how we're operating any one of these programs, lets go quadruple-check it. I'm comfortable with that and I'm glad to see that we are starting to do that.Frankly, given how hard many of us have worked to challenge those critics (albeit mostly for their distortions), this response came as a bit of a surprise to me. But it shouldn't have.
What he's doing here is offering the very same outstretched hand to his critics on the left that they have so vilified him for offering to the right. The question is whether or not they are any more prepared to take it. Is their aim simply to find the proof that he is a liar? Or do they want to have a discussion about these issues? If its the latter, President Obama is saying he welcomes that conversation.
He can do that because he is not being driven by his ego or his own personal agenda - he's not an ideologue. He is a pragmatist looking for solutions. In addition, he knows that when it comes to bad actors in a discussion like this, conciliatory rhetoric can be a ruthless strategy.
One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.Its fascinating to watch him take this approach - not just with the right - but now with his critics on the left. It makes one wonder whether or not the latter will respond with any more maturity than the former.