Kevin Drum on Andrew Sullivan’s “Long-game” Argument

Andrew Sullivan wrote the cover story for this week’s Newsweek, which was fawning profile of President Obama that argued, among other things, that Obama has governed for the long-game, ie an 8 year presidency and that all of this choices have gone towards making that a reality. Also, Republicans and Left-Wingers should quit all of the deranged criticism of the President (which I totally agree with, except not really). Or something. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones responded:

Why was Obama so conciliatory toward the Republican Party early on? It has nothing to do with long-term strategy. It’s because he needed at least two or three Republican votes in the Senate to pass anything, and if he’d been a fire-breathing partisan from the start he wouldn’t have gotten them. He went down this road partly out of native temperament and partly because he didn’t really have any choice.

Why did health care reform take so long? Not because of any clever strategy on Obama’s part. It was because, right or wrong, he made a rational calculation not to repeat Bill Clinton’s mistakes. So instead of pushing a plan of his own, he let Congress take the lead. And Congress decided to move very, very slowly.

Why was Obama’s reponse to the financial crisis basically pretty centrist? Again, not because of any long game. More likely, it’s because Obama himself is genuinely fairly centrist and business oriented when it comes to financial policy.

What explains Obama’s strategy toward Israel and its West Bank settlements? I’m not even sure what the argument for a long game is here. The more prosaic—and probably correct—explanation is that Obama failed. He tried to press Netanyahu on the settlements because he thought he had the leverage to make him listen. He turned out to be wrong, plain and simple.

Why is Obama now taking a harder, more partisan approach toward his GOP adversaries? Not because he was cleverly playing with them for three years and is now reaping the rewards of an electorate convinced that Republicans are hopelessly obstructionist. In fact, surveys don’t suggest that public opinion has moved much in Obama’s direction at all. Rather, he’s doing it because it’s an election year. It’s now time for contrast, not compromise. This is Campaigning 101.

Also, as people who voted for and donated money to the Obama campaign we have every right to ask more from our president and to push him towards our preferred policy goals. I don’t think the president is a horrible dude who has walked back on all of his campaign promises but I’m sticking to my guns on Gitmo, civil liberties and the fact that he needs to wind down the drug war.

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