Update: In the seven months since I wrote this, I have been pleased by the President's change of direction. I hope that this was one of many pushes in that direction. S.K.
On Meet the Press Sunday, Savannah Guthrie asked Obama insider Robert Gibbs the question that many who want to support Obama would like to ask:
MS. GUTHRIE: . . . I guess the question is, if the president thinks more should be done, if he thinks there should be more stimulus, why doesn't he just go for broke? Why doesn't he go out there and ask for it, make a case for it? I mean, in some sense, is he pre-settling? He's making a political calculus about what he thinks might be able to pass and not getting out there and fighting for what he thinks is best of the economy.
Gibbs' answer failed to acknowledge that Obama has not appeared to be fighting for anything:
MR. GIBBS: No. Savannah, I think the president's going to fight for exactly what he believes is best for the economy because he's done that every single day he's been president. . . .
If this is true, no one in the country knows about it. To his supporters who are edging their way to the door, Obama is, in Ms. Guthrie's words, "pre-settling." He is not taking a position and then accepting compromise. He stands for nothing except compromise.
Apparently, the political Einsteins around the President think this is a good idea. Presumably, Obama does also.
I don't. I think this is a big reason why Obama's disapproval rating on the economy is 71% according to CBS News. Obama does not stand for anything. Yes, the Republicans are being intransigent. Yes, Obama's plan is not going to pass. But there still needs to be a discernable plan. Vilifying Grover Norquist is not enough.
That is the point that the usually perceptive Fareed Zakaria missed when he told liberals last week to "grow up."
I think that liberals need to grow up. As "The New Republic's" Jonathan Chait brilliantly points out, there is a recurring liberal fantasy that if only the president of the United States would give a stirring speech, he would sweep the country along with the sheer power of his poetry and enact his agenda.
In this view, write Chait, every known impediment to the legislative process - special interest lobbying, the filibuster, macro economic conditions, not to mention certain settled beliefs of public policy - are but tiny stick huts trembling in the face of the atomic bomb of the presidential speech. This does happen if you're watching the movie "The American President," but not if you're actually watching what goes on in Washington.
Liberals understand that Obama is not going to enact an economic policy by fiat; that something has to actually pass. But all this kowtowing to the need for a long term deficit fix at the cost of ignoring the spending necessary for jobs, indeed not even advancing the cause of a second stimulus, has made the President not only look like he has pre-settled, but that he has been pre-rolled.
Who would think that Peggy Noonan, whose "read my lips" demagoguery for Bush Sr. started our decline into the politics of "no,: would get it right:
He should not do bips and bops and boops of little pieces of legislation and policy. He should be clear, define the situation, give us the answer.
Gibbs 15 minute rope-a dope did not convince me of anything. I, for one, am unsubscribing to the incessant fund pitches via text and email from various Obama groups. They can come back for my money and my enthusiasm when they advocate something that I agree with.
P.S. Could we please have more of the informed and insightful Ms. Guthrie on MTP and less of Mr. Gregory? He could do the third hour of the Today Show.
Response to comments: Of course, I am going to vote for Obama. But, I won't be at a phone bank like I was last time and the Wall Street folks he has been protecting can finance the campaign. There are other good causes to which to donate.
Follow Stephen Kaus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stephenkaus