The Corner

Has Barack Obama Given Up Debating?

This, via Politico, is taken from President Obama’s interview with Chris Matthews yesterday evening:

Obama bristled at the suggestion that his trade agenda would hurt the middle class, a criticism he has faced from key union allies as well as Warren.

“Think about it. I’ve spent the last six and half years yanking this economy out of the worst recession since the great depression. Every single thing I’ve done from the Affordable Care Act to pushing to raise the minimum wage to making sure that young people are able to go to college and get good job training to what we’re pushing now in terms of sick pay leave,” Obama said. “Everything I do has been focused on how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal.”

“Now I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts they are wrong,” Obama said.

In other words: “Hey, it’s me. You know I wouldn’t do this if it weren’t a good idea!” 

I would be fascinated to know whether Obama knows deep down that he’s being lazy and cheap here, or whether he has actually come to believe his own PR. As you might expect, I’m a free trader, and, on this question, I’m closer to the president than to Elizabeth Warren. (Although I’m not wild about Congress giving up even more of its power.) Nevertheless, it’s not as if Obama and the rest of his party are debating whether Italy is in Europe or whether the sky is blue. There are serious debates to be had around this issue, and there are good people engaging in them in good faith. That he expects the public and his party to just accept that he’s a perfect champion for the middle class and that absolutely anything he does is therefore the right thing to do — well, that’s pretty disgusting.

It’s a little worrying, too. Jonah has previously criticized this president for his conviction that America would be better off if its people rose and fell as one, as does the military. This, Jonah noted correctly, is utterly incompatible with a free society and it is an unbecoming wish for a leader to harbor. Unless, that is, that leader genuinely believes that he can be trusted implicitly and that everybody who disagrees is just wrong. In that case, dissent becomes ridiculous gainsaying and debate becomes nuisance. Were I Elizabeth Warren, I’d be livid to have been so dismissed.



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