Idiot of the Day: James Kirchick (for arguing that Obama has abandoned the Netroots)
Writing in the New York Daily News, TNR assistant editor James Kirchick, long an obsessively angry critic of (liberal) bloggers, argues that Obama is "already angering some of his most devoted followers on the party's left wing." Yet the only example he gives is Obama's support for Lieberman, hardly a centerpiece of the Obama pre-presidency. While it is true that many liberal bloggers wanted Lieberman to be given the boot, including me, and that some took it personally, as if Obama were directly attacking the netroots, it's just not that important a move on Obama's part, and, as many of us suggested, there were good reasons for it. Obama wants Liberman's vote, and wants to be, and to be perceived to be, inclusive, and if Lieberman proves to be an unrepentant thorn, he'll be dealt with accordingly. To suggest, as Kirchick does, that this one issue an Obama slap of the Netroots' face is simply ridiculous.
But, then, Kirchick's piece is one long smear of the Netroots. For example, he suggests that the Netroots -- and, indeed, everyone who wants to see an end to the Iraq War -- want to "[abandon] Iraq to Iran and Al Qaeda," as if that's the only alternative to the withdrawal of U.S. troops: if you don't support the war, Kirchick implies, you're with America's enemies. You expect to see such a stupid argument in the pages of The Weekly Standard and on Fox News. It is simply embarrassing that Kirchick is an editor at TNR, a magazine I admire a great deal and read frequently. In terms of the war, all he spews is the usual right-wing nonsense.
Kirchick, as bitter as ever, thinks that the Netroots (though he only names three: Kos, Jane Hamsher, and David Sirota "don't matter". America is more conservative than liberal, he remarks, repeating the common post-election refrain, pushed by the right and repeated ad nauseam by the mainstream media, that America is a "center-right" nation. Basically, Obama's "left-wing supporters" are merely "petty, vindictive and small."
If anyone is "petty, vindictive and small," it's Kirchick, and he proves it here -- yet again.
But the question needs to be asked: Has Obama abandoned his liberal supporters?
Consider, for example, his job-creation plan, outlined in his radio address today. It is an aggressive, liberal plan. (Indeed, ss Cernig rightly notes, it is very much based on "the ideas of his progressive base.") Furthermore, with Tom Daschle as his HHS secretary and health-care czar, it is clear that he intends, according to Ezra Klein, one of the more prominent liberal bloggers, "to pursue comprehensive health reform." And since the election, lest we forget (for Kirchick seems not to care) he has repeated his Netroot-friendly commitments to end the Iraq War and to combat global warming in a serious and meaningful way, including through the progressive cultivation of alternative energy sources.
To be sure, Obama will have some non-liberal foreign and military policy hawks around him, including possibly Robert Gates at the Pentagon and James Jones as his NSA, but it's not like his administration will be like Bush's, or that it will be intentionally anti-progressive. If anything, it will be diverse and dynamic, with a great deal for the Netroots to like, including Hillary at State. (Hillary is more hawkish than Obama, yes, but she was supported by many top liberal bloggers, including Taylor Marsh and Melissa McEwan.)
Finally, consider what Obama's likely attorney general, Eric Holder, said in a 2004 speech to the American Constitution Society:
I believe that we have the capacity as a nation to meet all of these challenges. But the answers to these problems are not to be found in the conservative agenda that relies on what are already old proposals and tired rhetoric.
The solutions are contained within a new, dynamic, progressive movement that has the ability to inspire and motivate the people of this nation in the way that progressives have in the past.
So Obama has abandoned the Netroots and will govern from the center-right, eh? Hardly.
The only think Kirchick's piece proves is that he's an idiot.