Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically.Clearly Krugman doesn't understand this President's theory of change - which I have often called conciliatory rhetoric as 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.Just as with most people who are steeped in dominance as the only source of power, Krugman doesn't get that the audience for these efforts was never Republican politicians (who President Obama knew were wedded to a strategy of obstruction). It was always the American public - who he counted on to recognize the vacuity of the Republican position.
The question then becomes whether or not President Obama has been naive about the American public. This is a question I've often asked myself. As Ta-Nehisi Coates said years ago, he has shown "a shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity." One has to wonder whether or not that faith is warranted.
But here's the catch: the American public has always relied on media to frame the story about what is happening in Washington DC. While major media outlets tended to frame Republican obstruction as "both sides do it," conservative and liberal media blamed Obama (the former for not capitulating to Republican demands and the latter for capitulating too much). In the end, almost no one focused on the fact that the Republicans had nothing...so it never showed. If President Obama has been naive, its been about the changing nature of our media and their role in giving cover to Republican strategies.
For me, any leader that stops believing in the power of the people is not a leader I can support. Call it naive if you will...but its also the very basis of our democracy.
We, the people — recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only, what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That's what we believe.
- President Barack Obama, 2012 Democratic Convention