Something's happening to President Obama's relationship with those who are inclined not to like his policies. They are now inclined not to like him. His supporters would say, "Nothing new there," but actually I think there is. I'm referring to the broad, stable, nonradical, non-birther right. Among them the level of dislike for the president has ratcheted up sharply the past few months.
It's not due to the election, and it's not because the Republican candidates are so compelling and making such brilliant cases against him. That, actually, isn't happening.
What is happening is that the president is coming across more and more as a trimmer, as an operator who's not operating in good faith. This is hardening positions and leading to increased political bitterness. And it's his fault, too. As an increase in polarization is a bad thing, it's a big fault.
The shift started on Jan. 20, with the mandate that agencies of the
Catholic Church would have to provide birth-control services the church
finds morally repugnant. The public reaction? "You're kidding me. That's
not just bad judgment and a lack of civic tact, it's not even
constitutional!" Faced with the blowback, the president offered a
so-called accommodation that even its supporters recognized as devious.
Not ill-advised, devious. Then his operatives flooded the airwaves with
dishonest—not wrongheaded, dishonest—charges that those who defend the
church's religious liberties are trying to take away your
What a sour taste this all left. How
shocking it was, including for those in the church who'd been in touch
with the administration and were murmuring about having been misled.
Events of just the past 10 days have
contributed to the shift. There was the open-mic conversation with
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in which Mr. Obama pleaded for "space"
and said he will have "more flexibility" in his negotiations once the
election is over and those pesky voters have done their thing. On tape
it looked so bush-league, so faux-sophisticated. When he knew he'd been
caught, the president tried to laugh it off by comically covering a mic
in a following meeting. It was all so . . . creepy. (Continues)