Matt's Damon's petty, tasteless, and insipid knock of President Obama as gutless again got plenty of press mention. He used the more street, colloquial term to symbolize the president's supposed cowardice but we'll leave it at "gutless." The almost irresistible temptation is to chalk this up to the star actors need to get a little extra ink at the president's expense for his new movie. But Damon doesn't need to slam Obama for that. He's bankable no matter if he just read a page from the telephone book.
And this is hardly Damon's first hit on Obama. He's been carping at him incessantly for the last couple of years. But what makes this different are two things. Obama is poised for the fight of his political life to keep his Oval Office address. Despite the zaniness, ineptness, back stabbing and seeming disjointedness of the GOP at this stage of the political game, the party will eventually find its legs and will spend the bank to fulfill its relentless obsessive drool to make him a one-term president.
The second thing wrong with Damon's hit is that it comes at a time when the president has gingerly turned the negative wash against him in the polls. He got a big boost from the Tea Party cajoled House that tossed total political sanity to the wind and sabotaged the wildly popular and beneficial to the middle class payroll tax cut extension. Now enter Damon. The star actor certainly knows that his well-honed credentials as a progressive and a one-time staunch Obama backer can do damage. It feeds hungrily into the three year mantra rant of many progressive's against Obama that he has proven to be no different than any other deal-making, corporate, beltway politician, who shamelessly makes nice with the GOP and has betrayed his hope and change pledge. Damon and the other Obama bashers reject any criticism that their hit on the president as being a sell-out and no different than his predecessor, George W. Bush will further fracture, alienate and demoralize an already nervous, shaky, and uneasy Democratic base. Such a prospect is a virtual symphony to the GOP's ears.
Damon's criticism of Obama won't cause a single one among Obama's core supporters, and that's African Americans, Hispanics, gays, the young, and moderate to liberal independents to rush pell-mell on Election Day to vote for whoever emerges from the GOP presidential contenders pack to challenge Obama. But it could hurt in causing more than a few to throw up their hands, say pox on both houses, and stay home on Election Day. This would be the same as a vote for the GOP contender. Obama's strength in 2008, and it will be the same again in 2012, was not getting an off the chart percentage of the Democrat's traditional backers to vote for him, but to excite, inspire and ultimately drive them to the polls in huge numbers. This did not escape the GOP and since GOP governors have won the state houses in several key battleground states and now dominate the state legislatures in those states, they have stepped up their efforts to do everything legal and borderline legal to suppress the vote. They've rammed through or stumped for a slew of voter ID laws, narrowed the poll hours, eliminated weekend voting, made it more costly for the NAACP and other voter watch dog groups to challenge election law changes, remapped districts to create GOP friendly districts, and rolled back or toughened felon voting bans.
When the GOP big smear machine kicks into high gear during the campaign, expect quotes from a few of the more prominent defecting Obama supporters to be liberally cited in the GOP's hit pieces and spots on Obama. Expect Damon to be at the top of the GOP quote list against the president. Beyond the president's ability to rev up the troops and get them to the polls, the election will hinge on the economy. Even on this Damon may have even provided some grist for the GOP mill when he took another back hand slap at the president by railing that the Democrats missed the boat by not fully backing the Occupy Wall St movement and the fight against the greedy rich. He dumped the blame for that on "their lack of a leader" he meant of course, Obama.
This criticism also plays directly into the GOP's hands since challengers don't get blamed for the real or imagined shortcomings of an incumbent president in dealing with the economy; the incumbent president does. Obama will have little margin for error to ward off the indifference or worse, hostility, from Democrats if they really see him as a lackluster leader.
That's not a matter of Obama having no "cajones" as Damon loudly claims. It's a matter of aiding and abetting the GOP. That possibility is music to the GOP's ears.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com