I fail to see how giving TV exposure to the genuine left, and the opportunity for the beginning of a response to what are surly some legitimate questions, could do anything but *help* Obama's cause. How else to prove his policies are indeed as centrist as he himself admits, after all?
Anyway if he's serious about inspiring the sort of little-d democracy we saw on the campaign trail (and not much since), there's one obvious way to start, by ceasing the complete censorship of voices from the left. Who knows, if given half the chance their ideas may even sound more eloquent, accurate, practical and courageous than Obama's.
I doubt it will happen, but it should. Until then we'll just keep giving all the ideological "middle ground" to the likes of professional fuckstick David Brooks.
Update: Well Robert Kuttner is less kind still:
Some of my friends think the Baltimore exercise was masterful. About the only thing I cared for was the juxtaposition of the words "Republican" and "Retreat." Obama did a fine job of defending his record and sounding high minded and presidential, but again the plea was for sweet reasonableness.
They sent us to Washington to work together, to get things done, and to solve the problems that they're grappling with every single day.
Obama ticked off area after area where he agreed with Republican policies. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan giving that to the Democrats? At one point, insisting that he was open to good ideas from any quarter, Obama declared:
I am not an ideologue. I'm not.
You're not? Then why bother? Ideology is not some arbitrary penchant for clinging to stale ideas. It is a principled set of beliefs about how the economy and society work, and should work.
To be a conservative Republican is to believe that markets work just fine, people mostly get what they deserve, and government typically screws things up. To be a liberal Democrat is to believe that market forces are often cruel and inefficient; that the powerful take advantage of the powerless; and that there are whole areas of economic life, from health care to regulation of finance, where affirmative government is the only way to deliver defensible outcomes for regular people.
That's an ideology, one that progressives are proud to embrace. So why does Obama think it virtuous to disclaim ideology in general? The problem afflicting America is not "ideology." It's the hegemony of rightwing ideology. And given presidential leadership, most working Americans -- most voters -- identify with the progressive view of how the world works, especially in an era where conservative ideology has produced financial collapse.
Obama's latest refinements on the politics of common ground make for a pretty pose, but they are too clever by half.
Now, if we are very sanguine, we can read efforts like these as prologue to a stiffening of Obama's spine. This is all a grand design -- he's playing chess, we're playing checkers. Along about March, he will pivot and finally deliver a tough speech declaring that he bent over backwards to accommodate the Republicans. But now, no more Mr. Nice Guy.
But I am increasingly skeptical that he will ever get there. It's just not who he is. So the obstructionism will likely continue, except in cases where Obama makes all the concessions.
Obama may think he is modeling a higher form of leadership. He isn't. If he wants to be loved by voters, it's time for some toughlove directed at Republicans.
UpdateII: Obama takes part of my advice, though the questions remain centrist and uncritical to a fault (at least those on camera) and Fox "news" doesn't even cover it (doing their patriotic best to keep Republicans forever in the dark). Etc. Obviously the damage O'Reilly & Co. continue to inflict on the intelligence of our national dialogue needs to be taken far more seriously (as opposed to simply scoffed at) and better combated.
Sign the petition demanding more regular question time here.