With the public on his side, Obama is playing the bad cop

Jill Lawrence NAILS IT:

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are settling into a good-cop, bad-cop routine. Biden supplies empathy, negotiating skills, and comic relief. Obama is assertive, sometimes combative, clear about what he wants and when he wants it, and given to reminders that a) he won the election and b) polls show the public agrees with his agenda.

To Republicans, some of whom are coming to recognize that compromises are necessary and even sometimes in their political interest, it feels like Obama is kicking them when they are down. (See House Speaker John Boehner: Obama is trying to “annihilate” the GOP.) For the Kumbaya crowd, with whom I have some sympathy, the signs do not bode well for an outbreak of intimate bipartisan dinner parties at the White House, or regular presidential golf and basketball outings with Republican pals. A revival of the fabled Ronald Reagan-Tip O’Neill relationship–friends after 6 p.m.–is not in the offing between Obama and Boehner.

“We can do more” to cultivate relationships, conceded senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer, and said that it would happen. “But this idea that if the president just played golf with the speaker more often or broke bread with [Senate Republican Leader Mitch] McConnell more often, all of our problems would be solved, is a relic of an entirely different era.”

The White House doesn’t have much incentive to rejigger because, surprise, polls, by and large, show that a majority of Americans like this unapologetic second-term Obama. Six in 10 people viewed him favorably in one recent poll.


Let’s stipulate that there’s deep mistrust and an even deeper ideological chasm between Republicans and Democrats, and neither will be fixed with bowling parties. That doesn’t mean we are doomed to paralysis. In today’s Washington, the path to progress is cold politics: locating the intersection of self-interest for both parties. Immigration reform, which Republicans need badly, is one of those intersections. Gun research and background checks may be another. Taxes and spending are the stickiest issues, especially with this week’s GDP news foreshadowing an economic slowdown if the federal government makes sharp spending cutbacks. But there is room for compromise if both sides are convinced it’s in their interest.

Still, Republicans should be forewarned: They’ll be dealing with a president who is feeling less patient and more empowered than he was in his first term and one who, for now, has the public in his corner.



  1. RedRover

    Obama has been playing the bad cop for his entire term in office.

    Here he is joking about what a bad cop he can be, if he so chooses:

    Here is a summary of his bad cop activities over the last 4 years:

    And here are just a few of his bad cop action victims, none of whom are congressional Republicans:

    So if, as Jill Lawrence writes, we now have “a president who is feeling less patient and more empowered than he was in his first term”, how many more tiny victims of Obama’s bad cop actions can we expect to see? Will it be enough to earn him another Peace Prize?

  2. RedRover

    Pat Cunningham, has the cat got your tongue?

    We are all dying to hear your “unabashedly liberal perspective” on Obama’s drone war crimes.

    Do you have what it takes to address this issue?

  3. RedRover: I’ll be perfectly honest with you. My silence on the matter of drones is mostly a matter of laziness — and at least a little bit a matter of political bias.

    My own brother is constantly bugging me with stuff about Obama and the drones, and more than a few other liberals have harped on the subject repeatedly. But most liberals, including me, have had little or nothing to say about it. Frankly, I don’t know a lot about the subject, and I haven’t gone out of my way to find out about it. I’m bothered by what I do know, just as I’m bothered by Obama’s failure to close down Gitmo — but, no, I’ve said nothing about being bothered by these things.

    My silence probably arises from my preoccupation with fending off criticism of Obama on other matters. Another likely factor has been overall public approval of Obama’s handling of foreign policy, which runs counter to the conventional political wisdom that Republicans are stronger on foreign policy.

    I’m not going to promise you here that I will hereafter enthusiastically ride herd on the drones issue, but you’re right in suggesting that I should say something. Stay tuned. I don’t like thinking of myself as a hypocrite. It behooves me to do something about it.

    Come to think of it, it might be fun to see how many of our conservative regulars here at Applesauce would join in my criticism of Obama on the drones issue — especially in light of the likelihood that a Republican president would not be any more sensitive to the human-rights angle. After all, what little criticism there has been of Obama on this issue has come almost entirely from the political left, not the right.

  4. Luke Fredrickson

    Are those black helicopters I see hovering over Applesauce World HQ?

  5. Luke: In a word, no.

  6. RedRover

    Pat Cunningham:

    You speak of overall public approval of Obama’s handling of foreign policy, but honestly, when the corporate press does not question the president on this policy, when the foreign policy debate does not hardly mention it, how can public approval really be anything other than public ignorance?

    I have challenged your conservative counterpart, Ted Biondo, to address the same issue:

    Why don’t the two of you open up this topic together in some manner and begin the process of getting the public up to snuff on what their government is doing?

    As a child and a younger man, I often wondered how it was to be an alert, thinking person of conscience during US government atrocities like the systematic dispossession and/or extermination of the American Indians, Jim Crow and the decades of lynchings, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, etc.

    Each of those crimes was accompanied by tacit public approval like what seems to be in effect now. Where was the outrage then? Where is the outrage now?

    I hope to see this topic followed more closely by both Ted Biondo and yourself. It’s not a left/right, conservative/liberal issue. It’s a matter of life and death for people who have never done you, me or any other American any harm.

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr.

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