Van Jones (resigned), Yosi Sargeant (demoted), Valerie Jarrett (under attack), and President Obama's administrative department czars (intense scrutiny): They've all caught heat because they were deemed too Left or too liberal. And when they did, the White House did not utter a peep of protest.
The House and Senate snatched a big chunk of funding from ACORN and the Census Bureau dumped it as a contract agency in census information gathering. ACORN was, of course, one of Obama's staunchest grass roots voter energizers and a big recipient of Obama campaign money. ACORN, with its muddle-headed, lax administrative controls and its playing fast and loose with the rules, gave conservatives its head on a platter. When it did, the White House was mute. ACORN was a political embarrassment, and thus expendable.
Anyone who's in the Obama administration that has even the remotest left or too liberal present or past ties is now dead center in the cross hairs of conservatives. If they resign under conservative duress it's just as likely there won't be a peep of protest from the White House about them going either.
Obama hasn't ducked for cover only in the face of the attack on his liberal appointees and allies. There are also the issues. Obama agreed to extend the most odious of Bush abuses in the Patriot Act, strongly hinted that more troops and massive ramp up in funding are on the way to Afghanistan, and insisted that even after the presumed troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2010, the administration will maintain a "security" presence in the country.
Obama announced there'll be no public funds for abortions, smacked down former president Jimmy Carter who rightly branded attacks on Obama as racist, soft-pedaled the racism and xenophobia that fueled the so-called taxpayer march, and blew off the Congressional Progressive Caucus when it begged for a meeting with him to try and stiffen his spine on the public option.
The White House's mute silence when its friends are forcibly shoved out the White House door, and the soft shoeing on the issues, is not merely a political recalibration. It's a direct reaction to the GOP counterinsurgency against Obama. The Right isn't just dominating the political debate. It has driven Obama -- not to the center; he was never really anywhere else politically -- but to the right of center on some issues.
The first sign that Obama could be pushed to the right came during the election. When Republican rival John McCain, Sarah Palin, the Fox News Network, and the gaggle of hard right talk radio hosts hammered Obama as a tax and spend, big government, pro-minority pandering Democrat, he quickly moderated and even shifted his position to the right on everything from abortion to FISA. The aim was not to give conservatives any more ammunition to attack him as a wacky liberal or worse, a radical.
At times he and McCain sounded more like political Siamese Twins on the issues of expansion of stem-cell research, immigration, faith-based social services, expanded government wiretapping, building more nuclear power plants, global warming, fair trade, and the death penalty. The similarity between the two was even more glaring when Obama edged closer to McCain on his plans on health care and taxes and the Iraq War.
The borderline and blatant racist signs, posters, and chants heard and seen at the taxpayer march as well as the race tinged blasts that pulse through the right side blogs and websites. The furious smack down of Obama for his off-the-cuff defense of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.
And the wild, race baiting antics of protesters at the health care town halls have taken a toll. An early September 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center found a drop in his approval rating among white independents, middle aged voters, and white women. These were crucial voting demographics to Obama. He bested McCain among them during the campaign. The slippage in white support has made Obama even more gun shy about taking a political position that will further stoke conservative anger against him.
The GOP has shown that it can play the race card, whip up a populist revolt to a fever pitch, and hog the airwaves with some of the most outrageous slurs, lies and slanders against Obama's political agenda and him. The attacks have worked and they have forced Obama to walk an even tighter tightrope. He could well toss more friends under the bus, and his positions on key issues that at one time endeared him to liberals and progressives could go under the bus with them.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010.