MoDo’s Pure Washingtonism

Maureen Dowd Hosts Party For Gioia Diliberto's New Book "The Collection"

Yes, of course it’s the same column. It has a touch of Wieseltieritis:

[Obama] smoothly glided from his previously unassailable position on the matter of surveillance to his new unassailable position on the matter of surveillance.

It couldn’t possibly be that a Democratic president, always liable to be deemed “weak” on terror, waited for domestic opinion to shift before restraining the least ineffective and counter-terrorism strategy, could it? Nah. He’s just “aloof”. That’s been the story-line from long before Day One, when MoDo was giving bad conventional advice to candidate Obama, and she’s sticking to it. More Leonism:

There is no moral high ground that he does not seek to occupy. As with drones and gay marriage, he seems peeved that we were insufficiently patient with his own private study of the matter. Why won’t the country agree to entrust itself to his fine mind?

Oh, please. The first was wound down once it had achieved its primary objective and had begun to become counter-productive. The second was a politician bullshitting a little in order to expedite a civil rights revolution, by taking himself out of the front lines until the critical end-game. And if you don’t regard these political stratagems as a function of Obama’s alleged moral snootiness, but as pragmatic adjustments to shifting objectives, they look a little different, don’t they? Five years into Obama’s term and the entire Afghan al Qaeda franchise was taken out. As for his pathetic weakness on gay rights, he has presided over the end of the military ban – brilliantly maneuvered through Congress by Admiral Mullen – and federal recognition of marriages for gay couples. I’m not sure even being Tip O’Neill could have succeeded more powerfully, do you?

Then MoDo’s warning – even after 2008! – that Obama is not tough enough to counter the malign and crafty Clintons. Now I am second to none in maligning the Clintons. But what Obama grasps and MoDo doesn’t is that politics need not always be zero-sum.

It is not, for example, a threat to Obama that Hillary is already up to her neck in campaign machinations and shenanigans. This is the Clintons’ natural state of rest: machinations and shenanigans in the seeking and holding of power and money. And there is no cost to Obama if Hillary is campaigning to complete Bill’s third term. If she succeeds, then a great deal of Obama’s legacy is secure, and part of it could be the final humiliation of the GOP at his successor’s hands. If she doesn’t succeed – and she has never won a race outside the super-safe New York Senate seat she was bequeathed by her marriage – then …  the story is all about the Clintons’ failure, not Obama’s. The president’s current strategy gives him a chance of winning either way. It’s not high-minded. It’s the most nakedly political position there is.

And what, anyway, is MoDo’s alternative strategy? Win over Eric Cantor with a few Martinis? When Mitch McConnell is fighting for his electoral life because of threats from his right, does MoDo honestly believe Obama’s Capitol Hill schmoozing would help? If John Boehner cannot control the House GOP, is it really the president’s back-slapping skills that are at fault? This is 2013. We could wish the GOP were the same as it was in the 1980s but it ain’t. Then MoDo stumbles onto the truth … and leaves it lying there on the sidewalk:

His White House runs on the idea that if you are virtuous and true and honorable, people will ultimately come to you. (An ethos that sometimes collides with political success.)

That “sometimes” is a classic. It almost reminds me of the Monty Python Life of Brian skit about “what the Romans ever did for us”. Obama’s political style is useless, apart from becoming the first black president,  saving the US from another Great Depression, succeeding at getting universal healthcare, rescuing the American auto industry, presiding over a civil rights revolution, ending two failed wars, avoiding two doomed others (against Syria and Iran), bringing the deficit down while growing the economy, focusing the executive branch on climate change, and killing bin Laden. Yes his ethos “sometimes” “collides” with political success.

But no, he has never obsessed about whom the capitol is buzzing about – i.e. boomers and their Clinton obsession. Which is proof enough of his transformation of American politics. He has transformed it so much that MoDo cannot even understand how he has been so successful.

(Photo: Sally Quinn, Walter Isaacson, Maureen Dowd and Ana Marie Cox at the book-signing and reception for Gioia Diliberto’s new book ‘The Collection’ at a private residence on September 15, 2007 in Washington, DC. By Paul Morigi/Wire Image.)