Andrew Sullivan & President Obama

Courtesy Ezra Klein:

Andrew Sullivan’s 2007 profile of candidate Obama in the Atlantic is worth a reread in light of his most recent piece on the case for his reelection.

“Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters

Is Iraq Vietnam? Who really won in 2000? Which side are you on in the culture wars? These questions have divided the Baby Boomers and distorted our politics. One candidate could transcend them.
By Andrew Sullivan”

“Andrew Sullivan: How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics
Jan 16, 2012 12:00 AM EST
The right calls him a socialist, the left says he sucks up to Wall Street, and independents think he’s a wimp. Andrew Sullivan on how the president may just end up outsmarting them all.”

Ezra’s take:

“The case for Obama comes by way of Andrew Sullivan. It’s worth reading, if for no other reason than if you run in circles that talk politics, you’ll probably be asked to discuss it sometime this week. It’s an agenda-setting article like that. And, in a sense, it’s one Sullivan has written twice. In 2007, he profiled Obama for The Atlantic, in a piece that did a better job articulating Obama’s postpartisan appeal than even the candidate himself. This year, he has written a defense of Obama’s record that is better than anything the campaign has produced itself. Much as the ideas in Sullivan’s original Atlantic article felt novel early in the 2007 campaign but became the standard case for Obama by the time Americans went to vote, the arguments in Sullivan’s Newsweek article feel unusual now but will soon become standard among, at the least, Obama’s supporters. ”

This is mostly a test to see how top posting works here, including cutting and pasting hypertext links.

13 Responses

  1. I linked to that article in the last thread. One of the points is that Obama has near infinite patience on long-term goals. For example, rather than come in guns blazing over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell he basically set the military brass up for having to come up with their own recommendation to kill it. It took much longer but know it is institutionalized rather than commanded top-down.

    It’s very frustrating because a lot of times it looks like he’s being played (and sometimes he does get played) but more often then not, he is just letting out line before he reels it in.

    How the new round of negotiations on the payroll tax play out will be a good indicator of how well he has done on giving the tea party enough rope.


  2. This is the article I would have wanted to write if I had Andrew Sullivan’s command of facts and big platform. From the time I first encountered Obama on the public scene, I recognized he had the most remarkable temperament and ability to play the long game without the usual political posturing. As I said once at the Plum Line–to universal derision–I can’t believe our good luck.


    • Sullivan’s article reminds me of the article in Esquire talking about Obama and Both articles argue that Obama has been misunderstood and that he is taking a long-term approach.


  3. I don’t know, Kevin Drum has a little issue with Sully, as usual of course. I tend to lean Drum’s way a bit more. But even he doesn’t touch on the issues that I’m finding difficult to resolve.

    This is sort of a watered-down version of the 11-dimensional chess hosannas that deservedly got a lot of mockery back in the day. But it wasn’t true of Obama then (both his campaign and governing strategies have been fairly straightforward) and it’s not necessary to explain anything now.

    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 healthcare 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.


  4. My main point about Sullivan wasn’t about the current article, but rather it’s worthwhile to reread the one from 2007 and compare it to how things actually turned out. This passage for example seems to be overly optimistic in retrospect:

    “At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.”


    • That is an interesting point jnc, but I have personally never seen a Presidential term live up to the high expectations. I think in particular there is a rather large case to be made for what the man inherited upon taking office. I am not a particular Obama fan, although I did have hopes initially, but I am disappointed right now that Sullivan’s current piece barely mentioned executive over reach and loss of civil liberties. To me they both sound like wishful thinking puff pieces………………but I’m a cynic today.


  5. lms- I wouldn’t label you a cynic for not believing that Obama is basically a master pupateer who has been manipulating Republicans. Maybe pragmatic or realistic are better words. Basically you are siding more with Drum who thinks Obama’s actions have been born out of necessity and out of his centrist positions rather than some 8 year master plan. Buying into the later view rather than the former doesn’t make you a cynic. I can’t remember any specific instances in Sullivan’s article but my take was that it was missing many instances to support such a claim other than repealing DADT. Obviously it is somewhat hard to prove Obama’s plan exists or is working if Sullivan’s position is that it is an 8year plan. But as you pointed out, he hardly addressed the indefinite detention issue among others.


  6. ash, if he has a master plan I’d sure like to know what it is because in my opinion he’s a little all over the map. I’m patient, it’s my second best quality after stubbornness, but I mean come on. How does some of this fit into a master plan? Are we going to get little crumbs along the way and pretty words while undermining the BoR and ramping up shadow wars? Thanks for letting me believe for a minute that I’m not cynical though……. 🙂

    Like I said on an earlier thread I’ve got nowhere to go right now which is in itself pretty frustrating. I’ll figure it out though, I always do.


  7. “Like I said on an earlier thread I’ve got nowhere to go right now which is in itself pretty frustrating. I’ll figure it out though, I always do.”

    Gary Johnson?


  8. jnc, you’re just trying to get me to vote for him so it takes one away from Obama to match the one you’re taking away from Romney…………


  9. I’m not so sure about the long game argument. But I do think Sullivan makes some good points. Its a reminder that Obama’s centrism has forced the GOP to the right. They chose to characterize everything he did as radical liberalism & moved ever rightward in response. Repubs could have chosen to try to work together & find common ground, but instead went for a more adversarial approach.


  10. It’s a reminder that Obama’s centrism has forced the GOP to the right.

    Do you think Obama’s centrism is because he is a centrist on those particular issues? Because a centrist policy is the only thing he has even the slightest hope of getting passed? Or because he’s trying to push Republicans to the right? Obviously it could be any of those 3 for any particular issue.
    Another issue is that Republicans have been pretty successful at moving the goalposts on some of these issues. Most Americans wanted DADT repealed, but it somehow was seen as a leftist position. And as Sullivan pointed out, Obama was leary enough about backlash that he let the military brass take the lead.


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