The coordinated, scripted attacks on the Tea Party this weekend only serve to bolster my contention that Obama and his consigliere, David Axelrod, will be campaigning once again as outsiders. What we’re witnessing now is a little focus-group testing, with the Tea Party standing in for that perennial villain, George W. Bush. Smarting under the attacks from the left, Axelrod & Co. are kiting a new meme: Obama as the noble, suffering — if helpless — hero, unfairly beset by political opponents who no longer consent to roll over, as in the past. If only they would just shut up and do it his way . . .
If this indeed proves to be the line of attack — political rope-a-dope — then it means the campaign brain trust will have abandoned the peremptory, petulant Obama, wagging his finger at the nation, summoning congressional leaders, demanding compliance, etc. That’s the unlovely face of the true Left, fascist in its daydreams and in love with the man in uniform on the white horse. But that only plays to the diminishing, frustrated true-believer core.
So today we got Wounded Bambi, the doe-eyed fellow who’s doing his doggone best to bring the nation together, were it not for those darn Tea Party hunters in the forest, threatening the magical land of Hopenchange. I doubt this meme will last that long, since weakness in a leader is even more unappealing than impotent truculence. And, in any case, Wall Street greeted this new persona with a 600-point raspberry.
It’s hard to effect fundamental change when the thing you’re trying to change suddenly if belatedly wakes up to the mortal danger it’s in and starts fighting back. In Bush and McCain, Axelrod had two stationary targets to diminish, and Obama gained in stature as they degraded. But the Tea Party crew is made of sterner stuff, which means Obama and Axelrod have a big problem: For the first time in Obama’s national political career, they have an opponent who can fight back.