Saturday, May 30, 2009

Abortion Advocates Relieved -- What Was Gained?

What was gained by pro-choice groups in forcing the White House to affirm the Supreme Court nominee’s proclivity to support abortion rights?

Now that Administration spokesperson Robert Gibbs has declared the President is comfortable with Sonia Sotomayor’s position on abortion, we’ve given the conservatives something for nothing.

What was wrong with the ambiguity created by Sotomayor’s absence of a judicial record on abortion? Are pro-choice groups now “relieved?” What would they have done if the White House hadn’t assuaged their anxiety? Would they have demanded that Obama pull the nomination?

President Obama has been reaching across to the other side on the abortion question, trying to expand the democratic party base by bringing socially-conservative voters into a broad coalition organized around populist sentiment for economic reform.

This is more important right now than making nice to liberal social groups. Obama’s unwillingness to support gay marriage is a case in point.

It would have been a strategic advantage for Judge Sotomayor to enter the Senate hearing room with a question mark on abortion and other democratic party litmus test issues. The fact is that the more she can present herself as an independent, the harder it will be for the republicans to draw blood.

It is an act of political maturity for liberal democratic groups to contain their impulse to squawk. Be patient. Stay calm. Let the president build his bridges.

Monday, May 25, 2009

No Wimps

Among President Obama’s greatest gifts is his capacity to make opponents appear petty, self-involved and immature.

Americans are not particularly impressed with the petulant Republicans, who are gaining little traction with their snide rejection of Obama’s bold agenda. That notion is reinforced by the President’s gracious and earnest offers to his opponents to work with him to solve the nation’s problems.

It’s critically important that Obama supporters understand this, particularly at a time when the President faces growing criticism from his left as he compromises - as he inevitably will - on financial, military, energy and health care issues.

There is already a developing narrative among some progressives that Obama hasn’t and won’t “take on” the Pentagon, the banks and other elites.

I want to urge my friends on the left to be very careful going forward.
We are in the rare position of holding the moral high-ground. We have an articulate, attractive and popular President who shares our values. We do not want to squander this advantage by wining and fussing.

There is a tendency on the left to act out when we don’t get our way. Stop it! Our opponents are watching and waiting for these fissures to appear, hoping they can brand us as cry babies and wimps.

There are, in fact, legitimate arguments from the left on such issues as single payer health reform, swift withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, bank nationalization, torture prosecution and the like.

While left wing thought-leaders and activists should make their case clearly and forcefully, they must hold off on the chatter about this president “betraying his values.”

We have a president with stature, a proud and noble patriot who projects compassion and strength. His success is our success. He needs articulate and mature supporters who can stand up for his principles and his policies.

Let the other side moan and kvetch, get snarky and sarcastic. It’s our job right now to close ranks, reach across religious, ideological, racial, ethnic and party lines and help Obama unite our country and, in the process, marginalize divisive right-wing elements which in the past exerted powerful influence over our national debate and policies.