Opinion: What if Obama really wants a fight over gay pajamas?


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A little something to think about:

Have you too noticed that very few accidents seem to happen around Barack Obama?

Sure, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright association blew up in his face; that was just a matter of time and came not from Republicans but from fellow Democrats. One day the Harvard-educated, freshman senator from Illinois thought there were 57 states. He didn’t know Canada had a prime minister, not a president. And it took some doing for the man to grudgingly give in to that stupid lapel flag pin thing.

The Geithner-Daschle-Solis back-tax deals were also messy.

But those gaffes happened early in the presidential campaign or the administration. He and his team have been touching every conceivable base at every opportunity, from tonight’s Latin music fiesta at the White House to marking Leif Erikson Day to earn the Viking vote.


In fact, Obama’s devoted so much time cultivating and nurturing these political niches that critics credibly suggest he might profitably invest less effort in the perpetual campaign mode -- flying off to Copenhagen to take an embarrassingly blunt public hit for the Chicago machine and chatting up that serial philanderer on the CBS late show -- and put in a lot more shirt-sleeve time in the Oval Office being the new president at the old desk.

On Saturday night before he was asked about ‘don’t ask-don’t tell’ Obama told the banqueting but impatient Human Rights Campaign crowd (full text right here) all the Democratically correct things it wanted to hear before the big march for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality the next day.

So it was very surprising -- even jarring -- when on Sunday CNBC’s John Harwood, long a respected political journalist, reported a conversation with an anonymous White....

... House ‘advisor’ about the growing grumbling coming not from the predictable party of No but from, oh my, Obama’s own political left, described as the ‘Internet left fringe.’ Here, just hours after Obama’s warm remarks to his applauding gay constituency, is how Harwood described the conversation on air:

For a sign of how seriously the White House does or doesn’t take this opposition, one adviser told me today those bloggers need to take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with pajamas. Obama was wearing his when he found about his Nobel Peace Prize early Friday.

In an e-mail to Huffington Post Monday Harwood clarified that the advisor was referring to the whole Democratic left, not just gays and lesbians.


But predictably such blunt talk ignited a furor over in that nattering neighborhood.

AmericaBlog’s thoughtful John Aravosis wrote:

So the gay community, and its concerns about President Obama’s inaction, and backtracking, on DADT and DOMA, are now, according to President Obama’s White House, part of a larger ‘fringe’ that acts like small children who play in their pajamas and need to grow up. (And a note to our readers: The White House just included all of you in that loony ‘left fringe.’)

I wonder how the Human Rights Campaign is going to explain how the White House just knifed our community less than 24 hours after he went to their dinner and claimed he was our friend.

Over at FireDogLake Jane Hamsher wrote:

That is just classic. After pandering to LGBT leaders last night the truth comes out. Dear gays: Grow up and let us get about the serious business of governance. Signed, some dude who’s too afraid to give his real name.

And for the last 36 hours most of the media willingly chronicled the apparent wildfire spreading on Obama’s home turf. As we’re doing right here right now.

Harwood’s unidentified White House advisor sounds very much like someone from Chicago politics, where for decades Democratic tribal leaders have supremely ruled with the humility-free confidence of a machine that regularly controls 49 of 50 wards, sometimes permitting the survival of one lonely, loud-mouthed independent to symbolize opposition.

Harwood’s advisor also sounds suspiciously like, say, David Axelrod, senior advisor to Obama (see photo on cellphone), who covered the city’s political antics for years as a print reporter.

Or Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff (see photo, right), who learned politics there as a machine go-fer in the 1980s before working as money man for Bill Clinton, entering the House (in the vacant seat of then new, now indicted ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich) and engineering the Democratic House takeover of 2006.

How’d he do that?

By recruiting dozens of conservative/centrist (that is to say, non-left) Democrats into successful candidacies in normally Republican districts. The kinds of comfortable suburban places where left-leaning Democrats might normally assemble town halls with more signs than spectators.

Neither Axelrod nor Emanuel lacks confidence nor the media savvy that the pajamas line was a quotable nugget impossible for any journalist to resist. And -- here’s the key -- a line certain to light fuses on the Democratic left.

Now, why would a Democratic White House want to annoy -- even infuriate -- the far side of its activist liberal base that was so crucial to his election? Well, what are they gonna do, announce allegiance to Ron Paul? That ultra-progressive sector simply has nowhere else to go. So, what’s to worry?

Also, Obama enjoys overwhelming support generally among the nation’s Democrats. So what if his popularity there plummets to 80%?

Now, who’s the president gonna need to support healthcare reform and bandage this Afghan mess heading into the 2010 midterm election year when history says he’ll likely lose seats on the Hill? Bingo, those same conservative/centrist House pals of Emanuel’s whose incumbencies are a main shield against any Republican resurgence.

Oh, and about those crucial Independents who elected Obama last November and then started falling away all summer as Obama’s liberal spending, reforms and deficits metastasized? What better way to let those swayable folks come back home than by asking the helpful question, how can Obama possibly be an ultra-liberal if he’s being so publicly vilified by angry ultra-liberals?

So it was no accident whatsoever when that wily White House ‘advisor’ explained, ‘governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult.’

-- Andrew Malcolm

If you are impatient for politics news, click here for Twitter alerts of each Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. We’re also on Facebook. We won’t tell. Photo (top): President Obama. Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Photo (bottom): White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emauel talks to President Obama. Credit: Charles Arbogast / Associated Press