Political Animal


May 14, 2011 10:25 AM President Meanie

By Steve Benen

In a speech on immigration policy this week, President Obama chided Republicans for constantly moving the goalposts and refusing to take “yes” for an answer. The president added, however, that he’s still “going to do my part to lead a constructive and civil debate on these issues.”

This seems to have annoyed the hell out of Charles Krauthammer.

Constructive and civil debate — like the one Obama initiated just four weeks ago on deficit reduction? The speech in which he accused the Republicans of abandoning families of autistic and Down syndrome kids? The debate in which Obama’s secretary of health and human services said that the Republican Medicare plan would make old folks “die sooner”?

In this same spirit of comity and mutual respect, Obama’s most recent invitation to civil discourse — on immigration — came just 11 minutes after he accused opponents of moving the goal posts on border enforcement. “Maybe they’ll need a moat,” he said sarcastically. “Maybe they want alligators in the moat.”

Nice touch. Looks like the Tucson truce — no demonization, no cross-hairs metaphors — is officially over.

This is just fascinating to me. For two years, President Obama has gone to great lengths — arguably, too many — to find common ground with his Republican adversaries. He’s offered compromises and concessions; he’s offered to work on issues important to the GOP; he’s even frequently outraged his own base in trying stake out middle ground. In return, Republicans have generally responded with inflexibility, extremism, and blinding, seething rage.

On a whole host of issues, including immigration, the White House has even accepted policy measures Republicans have championed for years, only to find GOP leaders changing their minds about ideas upon learning Obama agrees with them.

But if the president responds to this by chiding Republicans in public, this is deemed outrageous. President Meanie is overly “partisan” and abandoning “civility.” The “Tucson truce” is over.

I’m curious, has Charles Krauthammer listened to a single Republican speech since January? Has he watched a single hour of a Fox News broadcast?

If Obama were making untrue claims, he’d certainly deserve criticism. But Krauthammer isn’t questioning the accuracy of the president’s remarks; he’s questioning the president’s willingness to hurt Republicans’ feelings. In the midst of important policy disputes, the right is stuck in the politics of personal grievance. We heard a lot of this in April, after the president publicly condemned the GOP’s radical budget plan, and we’re a lot of this now.

If Obama had been reckless in his rhetoric and/or over the top in partisan name-calling, I could understand some mild pushback. But joking about GOP demands for an alligator-filled moat is (a) funny, and (b) an exaggeration intended to highlight a credible policy point.

Whining about Obama’s occasional sarcasm is just bizarre. We’re left with the impression from voices like Krauthammer’s that Republicans are entitled to vitriol, but the president isn’t supposed to complain. He’s just supposed to take it.

I’m starting to think Republicans can dish it out, but they look for the fainting couch when Democrats return the favor.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Texas Aggie on May 14, 2011 10:35 AM:

    "Krauthammer isn’t questioning the accuracy of the president’s remarks; he’s questioning the president’s willingness to hurt Republicans’ feelings."

    What else does he have to go on? On one hand he makes people forget that the republicans are the ones who have been a bunch of foul mouthed whiners, and on the other hand he makes people forget that the republicans have been obstructing progress and been working to make things worse to facilitate their game of crisis capitalism.

  • SteveT on May 14, 2011 10:38 AM:

    But joking about GOP demands for an alligator-filled moat is (a) funny, and (b) an exaggeration intended to highlight a credible policy point.

    While Republicans' near-daily comparisons of Obama to Nazis is (a) not funny and (b) a wildly, even insanely, inaccurate portrayal that is intended to create a visceral reaction in their party's bigoted base.

    I'm starting to think Republicans can dish it out, but they look for the fainting couch when Democrats return the favor.

    Ya think?

  • kevo on May 14, 2011 10:38 AM:

    From what I've witnessed, Charles Krauthammer seems to be suffering from undisclosed intellectual maladies, and for some time if I may add! -Kevo

  • June on May 14, 2011 10:39 AM:

    During Obama's presidency, Republicans have all but functioned as formalized traitors. I don't have the patience at this point to say anything else but a very inelegant f*ck Charles Krauthammer.

  • SW on May 14, 2011 10:40 AM:

    Well, the thing is that if you are responsible you're just not supposed to listen to these idiots.

  • MuddyLee on May 14, 2011 10:43 AM:

    I would like to hear MORE of this kind of talk from Obama. After all the crazy stuff we have heard from the repubs in the past 2 years, how can they complain? In case they need a reminder, let's list a few things that repubs threw at Obama: he's a Kenyan, the health care reform bill is socialism with death panels, he's anti-capitalism, he's elitist and over-educated, he didn't deserve to be an Ivy leaguer, he's a secret Muslim, he's too weak to ever get Osama bin Laden etc etc ad nauseum. The repubs deserved to be ridiculed - all day, every day. If they can't take a little sarcasm from Obama then maybe they should un-lock and un-load, go home, get off the Sunday morning talk shows, and just shut up.

  • Gandalf on May 14, 2011 10:46 AM:

    First off who the hell pays attention to what that sorry excuse for a human being Krauthammer has to say? Secondly his reaction is typical of your puffed up school yard bully who's just gotten an ass kickin. Oh please don't hurt me even though I've spent my entire life beating up on the weak and helpless.

    And captcha stills sucks!!!!

  • impik on May 14, 2011 10:48 AM:

    Charles Krauthammer really is a disgusting piece of shit. He is so dishonest, it's mind blowing.

  • TCinLA on May 14, 2011 10:50 AM:

    I'm starting to think Republicans can dish it out, but they look for the fainting couch when Democrats return the favor.

    When you tell the truth, Republicans accuse you of trying to "demonize" them.

    Oh, right, telling the truth does demonize them, since they are demons!

    Actually, they're Orcs. Every time I think of Republicans, I visualize that scene in the third movie, where the Orcs and their allies are down in the fiery pit, working to destroy the world. It's what Republicans do.

  • dj spellchecka on May 14, 2011 10:53 AM:

    for reasons that escape me, npr had republican operative ron christie sit in for bobo brooks last night and he was whining about how obama had "attacked" paul ryan and the house gop...

  • mellowjohn on May 14, 2011 10:59 AM:

    “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.” –Harry Truman

  • weboy on May 14, 2011 11:04 AM:

    Krauthammer's point is not new, and a lot of conservatives and Republicans have been annoyed with Obama's calls for "civil and constructive" dialogue for much the same reasons. Without agreeing with them, I do think that neither side does itself any favors by, as Benen notes, talking a lot about being "adult" and civil" while also firing off a string of partisan, sarcastic, and often somewhat rude, shots. I don't think anyone, really, has the high ground here, and I'm not sure the President helps himself (or does anything to deconstruct the notion that he can come off as aloof and above it all) with these "civil and constructive" comments as if, somehow, he's also not a highly engaged partisan looking to score political points. It serves a PR line for Democrats for the President to paint his opponents both as unreasonable and unhelpful, while insisting everyone needs to come together and find compromises. And mostly, especially in the last few months, I think a lot of this posturing simply comes off as little more than that. We should know, by now, that the real work of finding compromises and common ground is happening in private meetings. There will be some sort of debt ceiling deal. There will probably some sort of spending and budget deal for 2012 (or, we'll get more continuing resolutions). Compromises will be made. If the President thinks he gets a political advantage calling the other side willful and childish, then he'll probably stick with this line of attack. I think much of America, in the end, would prefer a lot less talk, a lot less name calling and finger pointing, and a lot more actually getting things done. Which is why, right now, I think a lot of people wouldn't reject the idea of junking both parties and looking for something else.

  • lapinga on May 14, 2011 11:06 AM:

    Make them whine, make them all whine. Don't stop making them whine. It may generate some sympathy, but after time, for the majority of voters, it will just become annoying. If it weren't for whining, Al Gore would have been president.

  • stormskies on May 14, 2011 11:10 AM:

    The operational psychology of these repiglicans is one of needing to feel victimized by life, and then to find scapegoats for their deluded perceptions of being victimized. That last thing they can do is accept in responsibility in their own actions. And when those actions are pointed out it then loops back into feeling victimized. It's a self enclosed psychological loops that is impregnable. The pig shit called Krauthammer is but one example within the heap of pig shit called repiglicans.

  • mmm on May 14, 2011 11:11 AM:

    So typical of sour Kraut and the cry babies at Faux news. You go, Republicans! Dissing a popular President is working so well for you.

  • bigtuna on May 14, 2011 11:18 AM:

    Krauthammer is an asshole.

  • jlt on May 14, 2011 11:25 AM:

    If Krautie has his drawers in a twist --YOU CAN BE SURE THE PRESIDENT IS DOING IT RIGHT!

    Note it is not about the correctness but about calling the repubs on the crap they have been pulling and trying to sell!

  • Drinking Jim Crow on May 14, 2011 11:34 AM:

    Steve, I can't believe you got through this entire post without citing the best example of this phenomenon: http://politics.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474979320059

  • c u n d gulag on May 14, 2011 11:35 AM:

    Conseervatives, care for some cheese with that whine?

    How about some Limburger?

    I know it doesn't stink as much as you do, but it's the best we can do.

  • navamske on May 14, 2011 12:06 PM:

    I'm starting to think Republicans can dish it out, but they look for the fainting couch when Democrats return the favor.


  • TT on May 14, 2011 12:28 PM:

    Krauthammer is living proof that complete morons can and do graduate from the Harvard Medical School.

  • ManOutOfTime on May 14, 2011 12:41 PM:

    Keep it up, Repugs! Americans love Alpha's and we HATE WATB's (h/t Atrios: whiny-ass titty babies) ... the "center" just haven't figured out which side is which yet. Keep calling Obama a meanie and 2012 will be over before you know it!

  • hsquared on May 14, 2011 1:29 PM:

    "We're left with the impression from voices like Krauthammer's that Republicans are entitled to vitriol, but the president isn't supposed to complain. He's just supposed to take it."

    There are elements on the left (FDL, Greenwald, Cenk) that have the same attitude.

  • jjm on May 14, 2011 2:50 PM:

    Obama has a very sharp wit, almost lethal in its capacity to hit its target and wound it. Why? Because he aims it at his opponents' weak spot, which is their total inability to tell or even comprehend the truth. We saw it demonstrated in his retorts to the Republican conclave a year or so ago, when they threw everything they could at him and he swatted their objections away like gnats, doing so without notes or a teleprompter.

    Now he uses this rapier wit very gingerly, knowing how damaging it can be.

    Instead of being grateful to him for this, Republicans imagine him to be weak and a pussy, and have thrown every brickbat, stick and stone they could at him, amazed that being so weak he hasn't simply crumpled under the relentless assault.

    But they will never get him, because they cannot admit anything that is the truth about any issue, any person, any actual fact.

  • Cha on May 14, 2011 3:45 PM:

    All republicons are whiny little bullies..Krauthammer is the latest in a neverending line.

    That ad on the WashingtonMonthly page asking if the US should follow Arizona's lead with a pic of Brewer and the maddest look they could find of President Obama is stupid. I take it you can't survive without gop shit ads?

    And, captcha still sucks. I love your reporting Steve Benen but this is not user friendly and the editor in chief did ask for feedback.

  • max on May 14, 2011 5:12 PM:

    Perhaps I'm as irrational as Mr. Krauthammer finds the President to be, but I didn't find any factual mistatements in the President's remarks. The downstream consequences of Paul Ryan's budget would have the damaging consequences the President mentioned, and many more. Krauthammer is a perfect illustration of a conservative commentator who insults the President with almost every column and then feels justified to throw an anti-intellectual tantrum when the President tosses GOPer nonsense back in their faces. Pathetic.

  • Kathryn on May 14, 2011 5:41 PM:

    Krauthammer suffers from a terminal case of "Obama Derangement Syndrome". He is constantly referring to him as arrogant, Krauthammer, whose face is a constant sneer. That's not arrogance Charles, that's called confidence.

    Watched "Inside Washington" last week after the bin Laden news mainly to see how Krautie would handle it. He didn't show and he's always there, couldn't deal with the success obviously.

  • JD on May 14, 2011 7:03 PM:

    The thing that impresses me is the sheer lack of toughness on the part of the Republicans, the wimpiness, the whining. They're constantly whining whenever the Democrats and President Obama make any kind of verbal jab, no matter how accurate the jab may be.

    You'll notice that they don't seem to dispute the truthfulness of Obama's arguments; they're just mortified that he speaks at all in opposition to their egregious plans. What a bunch of contemptible babies!!

  • emjayay on May 14, 2011 7:20 PM:

    Oh look, over there on the whole right half plus of the screen. Wait, better put on your shades first to avoid retina damage.

  • Doug on May 14, 2011 7:22 PM:

    Boiled down, the present batch of Republican/Teabaggers and their enablers have the emotional and mental maturity of eight- or nine-year-olds.
    Socially, immature eight- or nine-year-olds...

    ps: I have yet to have any problem with captcha but the blinding white background IS a bit annoying...

  • exlibra on May 14, 2011 8:37 PM:

    The sour cabbage-head has a pee-pee? And it got owie-d? I hope the cabbage can find someone to kiss it and make it better :)

    Second Captcha proposal (it's much more willing to negotiate than the Repubs are) is:
    "nrenter citizen".
    Not sure how to interpret that. "Renters are not citizens (understandable, in an ownership society; that's what the Founding Fathers claimed, too)"? Or "Enter your number, citizen (how very Stalinist)"?

  • Hal Morris on May 14, 2011 10:31 PM:

    Rather than the "fainting couch", I'd suggest a basketball metaphor, to those artists at falling over and appearing to writhe in pain when somebody on the other team brushes them so as to get a foul penalty called on that other team.

  • Jackie on May 14, 2011 10:37 PM:

    I'm happy Obama's a meanie and not a weanie.

  • SYSPROG on May 14, 2011 11:09 PM:

    Yep these are the SAME GUYS that were gonna 'save Medicare' from those big liberal meanies just last summer...a mere 8 months later they are trying to take it away and when the President doesn't agree he's MEAN...are you sensing a theme here?

  • JoblessInJersey on May 15, 2011 8:11 AM:

    Nobody mentions that illegal immigrants are estimate to have about 7 million jobs. There are over 14 million jobs Americans.

    I think a lot of Republican behavior in 2011 has been awful but then I'm not happy about the Democrats either. I wish Obama would stick up for the unemployed the way he does for people here illegally.

    Oh yeah, and wish everybody would realize how costly another amnesty will be, now that we plan to expend Medicaid and provide health care subsidies in a few years.

    We'll en dup spending hundreds of billins of dollars on the formerly illegal yet right now Obama will not come out and support more weeks of unemployment because it's "too expensive."

    When neither party will stand up and help Americans, what are we supposed to do?

  • Ted Frier on May 15, 2011 7:10 PM:

    I think it goes one step further. Kruathammer's complaint signals that conservatives refuse to be held accountable to the real life consequences of their policy commitments. Conservatives claim to be standing up for freedom, liberty and the American way when they support cutting off old people from health care or young kids with Downs or autism from educational services. And conservatives are outraged when you point out that the real life consequences of their position is that they are abandoning the needy, both old and young. "No we're not," they say, "we are standing up for freedom!>"

    Right wing conservatives demand that we judge their actions entirely on their own ideological terms. If their ideology demands that they gut social service programs for the poor in the name of freedom, or if their religious fundamentalism demands they treat gays like fags in the name of a higher moral law, then how dare the rest of us judge them by results instead of the conservative's own self-flattering intentions by calling them cold, heartless bigots.

  • MARGOOsborne29 on August 08, 2011 11:13 AM:

    Houses and cars are not cheap and not everybody is able to buy it. Nevertheless, credit loans was invented to help different people in such kind of cases.