The Hill reports this morning that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs "blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough." It's understandable that Gibbs and others in the White House are frustrated. While sophisticated critiques exist of Obama's failure to take the initiative at critical points on certain policy issues, most of Obama's critics tend toward a view more akin to the Green Lantern theory of the presidency. Consider the critic quoted in The Hill, Adam Green of PCCC, who argues that Obama could have achieved a public option if he had only tried harder:
Attacks from liberal political groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which raises money for liberal candidates and causes, are also frustrating to the White House.
Adam Green, one of PCCC’s founders, repeatedly blasted Obama for a “loser mentality” during the healthcare debate, criticizing the president and Emanuel for not trying harder to include the public option in the final healthcare legislation. The group even ran ads accusing Obama of ignoring the will of the millions who voted for him by courting the support of Republican Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe...
Green said in an e-mailed statement Monday afternoon, “When Republicans opposed the stimulus and when Joe Lieberman opposed the overwhelmingly popular public option, the president could have barnstormed across their states and demanded they support policies that their constituents wanted — but instead he caved without a fight,” Green said.
In reality, presidents can rarely change public opinion on domestic policy issues. "Barnstorming" through the states of Republican senators and Joe Lieberman probably not have changed anyone's vote, particularly given the threat of a primary challenge within the GOP. And Obama needed to cultivate the votes of Snowe and others for the rest of his agenda, not alienate them. As much as liberals try to pretend otherwise, the president has relatively little leverage over senators, particularly those from the opposition party. As a result, the filibuster has proven to be an often-insurmountable barrier to much of the liberal wishlist. Gibbs's language may have been unfair, but Green and other White House critics need to get real.