Someone tell Robert Gibbs: Jerry’s dead. Everyone’s gone home.

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 13:46 EDT
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You know what I don’t enjoy? Waking up and reading, before my coffee pot has finished producing my lifeblood, the press secretary for the White House engaging in a spate of hippie-punching so broad as to sweep up the folks on this blog. If I thought like Robert Gibbs apparently does, I would be unleashing my anger on Glenn Greenwald, because he was the messenger who put the link up on Twitter. But I’m a grown-up, so I’m going to hold Gibbs responsible for his tantrum-throwing statements like this:

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Which is, of course, pure bullshit, since the PL he hates so much backed Obama up, and many of us were openly critical of Kucinich for being a weirdo who is ineffectual and attracts people who like lost causes. Which is why this statement from Gibbs is straight up self-defeating:

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

If he believes that, I have a bridge to sell him in the city he forgot to mention in his anti-hippie tirade. I know I sent money to the Obama campaign, as did practically every person I know who nonetheless feels like it’s our job to hold Democrats’ feet to the fire when they go off on one of their missions to sell out on the grim chance that one of those Tea Crackers waving a sign about “Obamacare” will suddenly have a change of heart. The ugly reality is that the netroots that Gibbs is generically castigating, as well as cable TV hosts like Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, are a major reason that Obama won. Good luck with those midterms distancing yourself from the people that got you elected! What’s really annoying is Gibbs is basically freaking out because Maddow and Olbermann do their jobs. Sorry that the Obama administration doesn’t have a bunch of professional sycophants like Bush did with Fox News. But it’s actually a good thing to have honest journalists who do their damn job of holding the government accountable.

Remember, Gibbs: You work for us.

I had two competing thoughts when confronted with this bout of hippie-punching, besides the initial, “So, like, Gibbs really wants the Republicans to sweep in November as a bunch of disenchanted liberals stay home, then?”

1) I am not a hippie. Seriously, these broad-based attacks on “The Left” for refusing to be sycophants are called hippie-punching for a good reason. The problem is that while there are still some Baby Boomers that are fond of being barefoot and a few trustfarians out there with white boy dreadlocks, most of us aren’t fucking hippies. On the contrary, a lot of us relate to the very people that work in the Obama administration—hell, some on the The Left have friends and family in the Obama administration. It’s an Othering of your own fucking people. I don’t wear patchouli or sleep in a van. I hate smoking pot and don’t do it. Being supportive of gay marriage, being against torture, and believing that the government should do more during a depression, a la FDR? These simply aren’t out-there crazy hat opinions, as much as cowardly Democrats would like to pretend otherwise. As one of the non-hippie hippies who had the specific audacity to call bullshit on the Obama administration’s willingness to sell out the pro-choice movement that offers so much support, I’m especially annoyed. I’ve often defended the Democrats against some attacks I thought were a tad unfair—for instance, I’m really not sure how much you could have done to corral Bart Stupak, who was so self-absorbed on the abortion issue he actually ruined his own career over it—but when the Obama administration does something straight up cowardly they didn’t have to do, then hell yeah, I’m going to say something. That doesn’t mean that I abhor shoes and showers.

2) All kidding about hippies aside, what really makes me mad is this: The fucking slogan of the Democrats is, “Make us do it.” We’re told over and over by major Democrats, including Obama, that they want us to pressure them because it makes it easier for them to do the right thing. If all the pressure they get is from the right, they claim, they’ll be forced to move right. So we have to keep the heat on.


[W]hereas the White House does not give a scintilla of attention to its right-wing critics, it does read, and will read, everything Glenn Greenwald writes. Obama, according to an administration official, finds this outside pressure healthy and useful.

Obama: “As president, I will lead a new era of accountability in education. But see, I don’t just want to hold our teachers accountable; I want to hold our government accountable. I want you to hold me accountable.”

It was in response to a person asking Obama about finding a just solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. After recounting the Randolph story, Obama said he was just one person, that he couldn’t do it alone. Obama’s final answer: “Make me do it.”

Later, talking about another bill, [Nancy Pelosi] also referenced ENDA: “I want to do it, you convinced me, now build the mass to make me do it.”

[Harry Reid] acknowledged as much today at Netroots Nation, the largest gathering of liberal bloggers and activists of the year: “I know there are times, I’m told, that I get on your nerves,” he said, eliciting laughter. “I’m here to tell you, you get on my nerves.”

Reid said, however, that he and the left need each other.

They demand that we hold their feet to the fire, and this is how Gibbs pays us, by hippie-punching us?

I’m not a fan of blindly freaking out at everything the Obama administration does, and thinking they used us for votes and have no intention on giving us anything. I demur when people get into that zone with me, but I understand why they get there, when the Obama administration does do right wing shit it doesn’t have to do. The criticisms that Gibbs is freaking out over are legitimate stuff:

*Anger that the Obama administration has reneged on much of its promise to stop immediately the human rights abuses that the Bush administration had as a matter of policy. Obama’s been President for two years, and Gitmo is still open.

*An affection for bipartisanship that seems impervious to a reality obvious to anyone not sucked into the mania, which is that Republicans have no intention whatsoever on working with Democrats on effective legislation that the Democrats can then run on. How much of the health care bill got compromised away in a desperate attempt to get a single Republican vote, when it was obvious that there was no way that you were ever going to get such a thing?

*While Obama actually promised to escalate the war in Afghanistan, that doesn’t mean said escalation is off-limits for criticism. Rachel Maddow may annoy the Obama administration by dwelling on the impossibility of accomplishing the stated goals in Afghanistan, but she has a point. Encouraging the government not to throw good money after bad is an admirable trait in a journalist, because most people shy away from that kind of discussion.

*Random, two-bit pointless sellouts deserve criticism. The Obama administration banned abortion coverage in high risk pools before they even faced real public pressure over it. They gave in without a fight to avoid a fight. Same story with the controversy over appointing Elizabeth Warren to head up this consumer protection agency. So what if Republicans put up a fight? Respond by hitting every TV show in sight to explain that Republicans refuse to vote for anyone that won’t sell out consumers to predatory banks. Giving in because you think there could be a fight is cowardice, and calling it such is no crime.

Glenn Greenwald is compiling a list of people who Gibbs apparently thinks are drug-laden hippies. People like, oh, Talking Points Memo, Charlie Savage, Bob Herbert, Anthony Romero, and Russ Feingold.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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