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Sunday Show Panelists Claim That Obama Has Never ‘Opposed His Liberals’

By Ian Millhiser on August 10, 2009 at 4:54 pm

"Sunday Show Panelists Claim That Obama Has Never ‘Opposed His Liberals’"

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Yesterday, panelists on both ABC’s This Week and Fox News Sunday uniformly asserted that President Obama never does anything to upset “his liberals.”  (Amusingly, ABC and Fox both forgot to include an actual liberal on their panels.)  ThinkProgress has compiled a brief montage of their claims. Watch it:

Such claims that Obama never defies progressives may accurately reflect the views of right-wing activists and Beltway pundits, but they have no basis in reality:

  • Stimulus: Progressive economists — including at least one Nobel Prize winner — warned that the President’s stimulus package was too small to lift the sinking economy.  Similarly, progressives consistently warned the President not to replace highly-stimulative spending with ineffectual tax cuts.  Nevertheless, the President rejected progressive pleas for a more substantial package and brokered a deal with made tax cuts almost one-third of the stimulus. Obama allowed much of its final form to be dictated by a handful of Senate Republicans.
  • Bank Nationalization: Many progressives unsuccessfully urged Obama to nationalize the failing banks, rather than risk making future bailout payments to an industry whose recklessness nearly destroyed the nation’s economy.
  • Cap and Trade: Many of President Obama’s campaign promises for a robust cap-and-trade system have been watered down by a coalition of so-called “Brown Dog” Democrats loyal to Big Coal.
  • Single-Payer: The House Progressive Caucus prefers a single-payer system to the almost-exclusively private insurance-driven system proposed by the President.
  • Judicial Nominations: President Bush stacked the federal courts with young right-wing ideologues — one of whom even compared Social Security to “cannibalism.”  President Obama’s nominees, however, have been older and far more moderate than President Bush’s, and at least one has been actively opposed by disability rights advocates.
  • Executive Power: President Obama embraced several Bush-era assertions of power, including signing statements and aggressive use of the state secrets doctrine to avoid disclosing information in court.
  • Torture: President Obama initially opposed a commission to investigate Bush-era torture policies. His Administration also opposes prosecuting Bush Administration officials guilty of torture.
  • GLBT Rights: Despite campaign promises to repeal bigoted laws like DOMA and Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, President Obama is “moving slowly” in carrying out this promise.  This, despite the fact that Obama has the power to unilaterally suspend DADT.

None of this means that Obama is a bad president. To the contrary, his economic policies are beginning to pull the nation away from the brink of an economic collapse caused by decades of right-wing policy, and his health care plan will protect millions of Americans from the insurance industry’s tactics.

If anything, the Obama Administration teaches that even an effective President must constantly be pressured to keep his promises. Although Obama has yet to make a big push on GLBT rights, pressure from gay rights groups convinced him to grant benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees and to pledge to overturn DADT by the end of his first term.  Similarly, under pressure from progressives, President Obama tacitly endorsed a torture commission and agreed that Attorney General Holder should have discretion to confront past abuses.  And the President backed off plans to nominate a CIA Director opposed by many progressives because of concerns about his views on torture.

Simply put, these Sunday show pundits have an axe to grind against “liberals.” But the reality of the Obama Administration’s actions thus far is one that defies such simple-minded criticisms.

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