Published for The Washington Post’s Topic A, December 10th, 2010:
This isn’t junior high school. Any overt effort by President Obama to “make up” with the left will be seen for what it is: a transparent and cynical – even weak – contrivance. The president’s base supporters will eventually come around and realize they can’t possibly do better for their agenda. How would he make up, anyway? Apologize? Send flowers? Invite them to sit at his lunch table?
Maybe everyone needs to grow up a little, but it would help if the president would lead the way – as he promised to do. Those of us who, despite policy differences, were nonetheless hopeful Obama would act as the grown-up in the room have instead been subjected to an endless stream of angst-ridden whining – about the “24/7 echo chamber,” “politics in Washington,” the “mess he inherited,” “Republican obstructionism,” and the ungrateful “professional left.” Not to mention name-calling – “enemies,” “hostage-takers,” “fat cats.” Does anyone remember that inaugural call to “set aside childish things”?
The president could also do with a better sense of timing. He could have sent a strong message had he chosen to pick his fight with Democrats early in his term, not after they’ve been bloodied in electoral defeat. Instead, from the earliest days, with the design of the stimulus package and later with health-care reform, Obama allowed congressional Democrats to set the tone of his presidency. They would respect him more now had he called the tune himself back then.