The tirade from Press Secretary Gibbs, nicknamed “Bozo the spokesman” by Rep. Grayson, is a boon to all those who favor reality over wishful thinking, or delusion. This White House invective settles it: the president isn’t a liberal, barely campaigned as one, and picked only a smattering of senior liberal advisers. Nor do they have a clue why liberals and centrists are fleeing in droves, preferring to blame the victim, not hear our horror stories.
American soldiers are dying in stupid, endless wars bankrupting our country. Washington feeds big corporations and starves, or puts on diet, 80% of the country, with perhaps 50 million people unemployed, underemployed or hopeless. Leftwing anger is far less about the betrayal of progressive dreams, even watered-down centrist legislation, or uninspiring Supreme Court nominations. What infuriates this leftist is what Obama hasn’t done, attend to Task One: Reverse Bush Crimes. Restore Constitutional protections, investigate and thus heal across-the-boards rights violations, deal seriously with energy, oil spills, and genuine threats to national security, like climate change.
That this White House doesn’t get real-world Main Street concerns is my takeaway, more telling than the tirades themselves against a fabricated “professional left” which never talks about Canadian health care or “doing away with the Pentagon.” Does obliviousness alone explain unsolicited aggression by the wobbly Obama team against its own base, even more puzzlingly, by making up lies? There’s no controversial bill or program on the table – and with the estranged center aghast at a jobless recovery, why cut and run from the left? Like Rahm Emanuel labeling Howard Dean “insane” for disputing health insurance reform, Gibbs didn’t simply express frustration but calumny: liberal whiners aren’t just ingrates, but insatiable crazies in need of “drug testing.”
Abuse will certainly calm the waters, won’t it, Gibbsy? The closed-minded thus deny legitimate dissent by denigrating the dissenters – even our right to unsullied debate! Close to the president, Gibbs sadly confirms Obama’s bottom line for the common folk: “the fierce urgency of never” – unless you’re talking corporate bailouts, war-making, deference to BP, or overpriced, predatory counter-terrorism. Because articulate press secretaries don’t speak for themselves, nor commit random acts, I smell another rightward lurch – to prove Obama’s no socialist? – and more shockers to come. Chances for an Obama primary challenge just doubled.
“Nothing is written”
Because this ill-timed mugging was instantly counterproductive, amplifying an “enthusiasm gap” dooming the midterms, a savvy, sensible friend quipped, “Perhaps Obama’s thinking of becoming a Republican.” Then it struck me: no true or smart Democrat sucker-punches his base, only a DINO does that, a.k.a. Blue Dog-centrist-moderate Republican lookalike. Already channeling Republicans on wars and terrorism, bailouts and mushy regulation, Obama doesn’t have to imitate Bush to keep power. But if bad turns to worse, couldn’t Obama’s only re-election ploy be crossing over, going Republican?
No, that’s impossible, even for a turncoat liberal. While abandoning pledges defines the Obama way, wouldn’t that be the audacity of gall? Presidential party switcheroos are unheard of, yet let’s coolly assess the trade-offs. If this inept WH further alienates a solid liberal block, what constituencies remain? Look how extreme McCain went to get re-elected, an embarrassed maverick without memory. If modern politics are about “winning by any means necessary” (linking Obama with Sarah Palin), then nothing is unthinkable – or to recall the line from Lawrence of Arabia, “nothing is written.”
Okay, “professional leftists,” pick your battered selves off the ground, snickering, laughing, shocked, or in distress – here’s a thought experiment? Advance Clinton’s triangulation, factor in a grievously unpopular incumbent two years hence, assume the same sorry-ass, rudderless Republicans, and no McCain warhorse loser. Figure in Obama as increasingly poisonous to centrist-left Democrats, a lethal torpedo like W. in his dotage.
What if late Fall ’11 polling puts five GOP names over Obama by 10 points? Imagine some nervy, distraught WH adviser mumbling, “what’s to lose, why not switch, turn moderate Republican and shake things up?” That single leap, so argued, could turn a one-term loser into the promised, electrifying, change-reform agent. Obama thus explodes the doomed status quo, resurrects the moderate GOP wing, and blindsides every GOP wingnut. Potential Democratic rivals would be in shock, especially if the WH waits until the last moment. Think new Dem fundraising prospects (Wall Street, banks) and thrill-a-minute Repug primaries, especially after Obama fans and minorities rush to register GOP.
Put aside screams about disruptions and precedence gone awry. Who imagined four years ago a mixed son of Africa (with globe-trotting white mother), a neophyte with Chicago machine ties, would smack down the most celebrated marital dynasty in our history? Wary to a fault when governing, Obama’s a riverboat gambler when picking his next race (thus his big congressional debacle). In this Bush-Cheney-Mark Sanford-Larry Craig-Palinesque day and age of rogues and rascals, criminals and outed CIA agents, anything goes. Who dreamed any WH chief of staff would slur Howard Dean as “insane” for disputing the health insurance bill, nor Obama’s press secretary would qualify, per Rep. Alan Grayson’s colorful depiction of Gibbs as “Bozo the spokesman,” so “far in over his head, he’d have to reach up to touch his shoes”?
Bennies for Going Republican
When Obama shifts even more rightward, his team can then readily vilify all critics, using more GOP dirty tricks (read: lying). What if we elected President Don Quixote more fascinated with hunting the impossible than relishing the spoils? What if, like W., he’s far better at campaigning than piloting the ship of state? That no president ever crossed over and won only makes it more irresistible, the impossible target for a breakthrough dreamer. Remember Einstein on improbable notions, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”
This administration fosters its religion of hard-nosed pragmatism, glorifying winning at all costs, even if mainly gestures and symbolic triumphs. Consider the failing Afghan War or Stimulus programs, bringing home the bacon (like peace or jobs) matters less than public exaltation. The threshold for high-sounding Obama legislation is to get it passed, come what, come may, not guarantee real change. In fact, elevating process over content answers to the dream of every ruthless politician: stay on top as long as possible.
Presumably, the Obama team is just as contemptuous, if quieter, towards slavish, disloyal moderates just as pissed as the “professional left.” Whatever, Obama isn’t looking left, but right for principles, proposals, advisers and White House guests. What if switching is the only play to fulfill his stated destiny, “I’d rather be a really awesome one-term president than a mediocre two-termer.” What about one suspect term as Democrat and another as Republican? Awesome, indeed.
Along Comes Hillary
Above all, switching parties shouldn’t blunt Obama’s bipartisanship. In fact, negotiating with non-ideological Democrats who don’t hate America between 1932 and 1980 promises infinitely superior results. Nor would Obama change his big political objectives, nor bloated, right-leaning rhetoric, nor many top staffers – none on the economic, intelligence or military sides.
There are two problems, but also positive opportunities: Hillary (and Bill) are Democrats, tried and true. Were Obama to go Republican, what better Democratic challenger than our Secretary of State, more savvy and tested (stronger for losing) than ever? We’d have a marvelous, extremely rare political replay, an historic epic drama for the ages. And if Obama the Republican is forced to show loyalty by accepting the party’s V.P. choice – say Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich, even Lieberman – wouldn’t that stagger pundits and voters?
Going Republican would, finally, shut down the Birthers, reduce the nastiest expression of overt Tea Party racism, and certainly raise the IQ of GOP presidential candidates. Ah, the silver linings. The last dozen years, and half dozen decades, prove the implausible, even the incredible, can come to pass. Obama did promise miracles and amazing change: Yes, he can go Republican, in spirit if not in letter.