Sunday, October 26, 2014

Has President Obama been naive?

Liberal pundits are very fond of calling President Obama "naive." Even in his defense of Obama's successes, Paul Krugman says this:
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 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


  1. I like the way you think through things, Nancy. Good question about him being naive about the media. Here's the one thing I think that counters that...the ten letters he reads every night from average Americans. I think that gives him a better idea of what people think about issues than the media could ever know.

  2. Welcome back, Nancy.

    You're smart analysis of Obama's conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy is not something the vast majority of Americans can see. The media can't report it because they don't see it. To be candid, I never saw it until you wrote about it and I follow politics diligently and appreciate the President greatly. Historians will judge Obama kindly down the road, but as for today, he's not getting enough credit for his achievements. His strategy to show the emptiness of the Republicans policies isn't working at this moment. Witness that the Senate is close to being overtaken by the G.O.P. The candidates they've put forth have the same mentality level as the John Birch Society. I believe the President was and still is naive about his faith in the American people. That voters have forgotten which party put the country in the drink economically only six years ago and have forgotten the mess the G.O.P.-led government created in the Middle East says everything about the ADHD world we live in and our dumbed down culture. I will, however, remain hopeful and gravitate away from the dark toward the light knowing that Obama has been a great president.

    (As a postscript, I also believe that Hillary Clinton reentering the political arena last Spring, to "promote" her book, has also contributed to the current narrative about Obama, part of which has been fueled by the Clintonites.)

  3. I don't think the word is naive. I don't like naive. I do think that the only thing President Obama miscalculated was that, in the midst of the greatest economic downturn this country has seen since the Great Depression, that one political party would CHOOSE to commit ECONOMIC TREASON against this country. I don't know if that's naive, all I know, if you had told me back in 2009 that the GOP wouldn't find a way to try and HELP this country, I would not have believed you, because hey, I'm patriotic that way...and I know the President is a true patriot.

  4. now everything else with regards to the President, there is no naivete. there is straight calculation about how to get things done as President and a Black Man who is President. ...

  5. smartypants, sorry to hear about your father. You were in my prayers.

  6. Welcome back, Nancy. You have been in my thoughts and prayers.