Political Animal


April 25, 2012 5:29 PM A Relaxed Obama Talks to Rolling Stone

By Ed Kilgore

The relatively long interview that the president conducted with Jann Wenner and Eric Bates of the Rolling Stone was short on fireworks or revelations or new policy pronouncements, but was a pretty good indication of Obama’s political and policy fluency at this stage of his presidency. As the title of the published interview indicated, he seems “Ready for the fight.” Sure, there was a lot of light banter of the sort interviewers conduct with presidents to set them at ease. Since this was for Rolling Stone, there was more talk than would otherwise be the case about his musical interests. Fans of Obama, and enemies cutting and pasting lines for the next characterization of the president as an elitist comfortable with hippies, drug abusers, and sodomites, will both find this stuff interesting.

Wenner and Bates also asked several questions reflecting ongoing concerns of progressives ambivalent about Obama’s priorities and tactics, dealing with marriage equality, drug enforcement, prosecution of corporate criminals, and climate change. By and large, Obama was persuasive in dealing with these concerns, albeit a mite defensive.

But the real heart of the interview involved his views on Republicans, and how he will characterize them in the coming general election campaign. Obama by no means abandoned his pleasant talk about most Republicans being decent people of good will. He even said nice things about John Boehner, which, all things being considered, might have been designed to bug the hell out of him. For the most part, he blamed Republican obstructionism and extremism on the “political class and activists” generally, and on ideological commissars like Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist. He expressed hopes that another electoral defeat for the GOP might “break the fever” (an apt choice of words) and reempower Republicans who want to return to those “traditions in which a Dwight Eisenhower can build an interstate highway system.”

But Obama left no doubt that he would not include Mitt Romney in that charmed circle of “decent Republicans” who are simply being misled (in both senses of the word). Mitt’s the chief “misleader”:

I think the general election will be as sharp a contrast between the two parties as we’ve seen in a generation. You have a Republican Party, and a presumptive Republican nominee, that believes in drastically rolling back environmental regulations, that believes in drastically rolling back collective-bargaining rights, that believes in an approach to deficit reduction in which taxes are cut further for the wealthiest Americans, and spending cuts are entirely borne by things like education or basic research or care for the vulnerable. All this will be presumably written into their platform and reflected in their convention. I don’t think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, “Everything I’ve said for the last six months, I didn’t mean.” I’m assuming that he meant it. When you’re running for president, people are paying attention to what you’re saying.

Overall, Obama (and for that matter, his campaign and spokespersons) seems to be describing today’s GOP as in the midst of a “1964 moment,” in which its most responsible elements have been either cowed into silence or deluded by the fantasy of rolling back decades of progressive accomplishments. While Mitt Romney may not much resemble Barry Goldwater, there’s a good case to be made for depicting him as an unfortunate combination of Goldwater’s policies and Nixon’s sincerity and ethics. You get the sense that’s where the Obama campaign is headed right now.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • j on April 25, 2012 5:43 PM:

    This is off subject, please all have a moment to smile about the Scots, today after being told in the Parliament
    that Scotland would be ruined if they built an offshore wind farm within sight of his golf course, he said he was an international expert in tourism.
    The gallery erupted in laughter at him, the Scots do not suffer fools gladly

  • J on April 25, 2012 5:45 PM:

    Sorry about the above comment I neglected to say that the subject of laughter was Trump!

  • TCinLA on April 25, 2012 5:52 PM:

    What I want to see in the first debate is Romney gets a question, does his "Romney side step" (Don't know if you ever saw Charles Durning sing and dance "I do a little sidestep" in the movie Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, but it is a political classic and the best moment in an otherwise not-so-good movie - I think you can find it on YouTube), and then the President cocks his head, stares at Romney and uncomfortable silent moment, then says "Mr. Romney, are you ever going to stop lying?" Then turn to the camera and say "Unlike my opponent, who makes things up as he goes along and whose statements can be proven wrong with two minutes on google, I tell you the truth and you can fact-check me on everything I say, just go google it." Leaving Romney flapping like a flounder just pulled out of the ocean.

  • Lev @ LibraryGrape.com on April 25, 2012 6:08 PM:

    It's a smart place for O to go. The louder Romney gets called a wingnut, the louder he'll have to protest, only he can't do it so loud or else his base will get angry. Better angle than the flip-flop thing, since most people don't pay close enough attention to the news to grasp the intracasies of that argument. I mean, a large minority of the public thought that the Energizer Bunny ads were ads FOR DURACELL! Simple, direct, powerful. And since Romney doesn't ever mention his Mass. governorship, hard for him to refute.

  • jim filyaw on April 25, 2012 6:26 PM:

    "breaking the (g.o.p.) fever" is something devoutly to be wished, but likely a pipe dream. one of the more noticeable things about the party is how the term 'compromise' has become a byword for moral failing. that can be directly traced to the party's crossbreeding with the religious fundies. the jesus jammers see it this way--there is them and there is satan. any attempt at bridging the gap is to imperil one's soul. they brought this attitude with them when they joined the party. it extends to all things, great and small. go into the typical baptist church and try to find a brother or sister who wasn't cast into outer darkness when they dared criticize the pastor, about anything. don't expect the republican party to return to being the party of eisenhower until it quits being the party of falwell.

  • Kathryn on April 25, 2012 7:52 PM:

    TCinLA.....like how you think, hope the campaign is reading this thread and Pres. Obama is that direct and blunt.

    @J......thanks for the info on the buffoon Trump, wonder if I can find tape of that, haven't seen Trump adequately humiliated since Obama destroyed him at the Correspondents Dinner last year.

  • SecularAnimist on April 26, 2012 1:47 PM:

    Obama said: "I don’t think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, 'Everything I’ve said for the last six months, I didn’t mean.' I’m assuming that he meant it. When you’re running for president, people are paying attention to what you’re saying."

    That's a good point. Here's what Obama said in the Rolling Stone interview about global warming as an issue in the campaign:

    "I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way."

    And here's what Obama said just one month ago:

    "Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years … I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some … So we are drilling all over the place … And as long as I’m President, we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure."

    Mr. President, I think you’re going to need a bigger Etch-A-Sketch.

  • marco on May 10, 2012 11:30 AM:

    this is off topic. just wanted to share. comptia verification

  • Crubrerfejelo on December 22, 2012 8:10 PM: