U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and former President Barack Obama are out making stump speeches, rallying the Democratic base for the critical midterm elections in November in the hopes of crippling President Donald Trump by taking control of Congress.
"He's smooth, she's not," said a Chicago Democrat who knows them both.
She wants Democrats to have the power to eviscerate the economic and policy successes of the Trump administration, put Trump's head on a political pike through impeachment and shame his more than 60 million voters.
There are no rules in love and politics. And Waters loves being a political street fighter. But at least she's honest about what she wants.
Not so much. He keeps his knife hidden from view, behind that silky tongue of his.
Flying high above it all on his winged unicorn the other day, Obama made it clear that he hopes to uplift us, and end cynicism in all its forms.
Ending cynicism shouldn't be all that difficult for a man who, in claiming the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 -- after eviscerating Hillary Clinton with the race card in the primaries -- that his ascent "was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal."
What's also clear is that he's still adored by the Democratic Media Complex even as he plays this cynical, silky political game.
It was Obama's preening cynicism and the obvious and wholesale adoration of the American media -- not Waters' vulgar directness -- that created the conditions for Trump to win the White House.
Waters knows Democratic bosses cringe when she speaks. She annoys them, makes things difficult as they try to appeal to suburban moms to pick up House seats.
When Auntie Maxine goes low, telling the mob to get in the faces of Republicans and hound them loudly and angrily from the public square -- in confrontations that could flare into violence -- Democratic leaders ask her to cool it.
"They say 'Maxine, please don't say impeachment anymore,'" Waters told a gathering the other day. "And when they say that, I say 'Impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment,'" Waters said, to much adoration and applause.
Meanwhile, there's Obama. Speaking the other day at the first of what will be many speeches until November, he was given an ethics award at the University of Illinois.
As president, Obama embraced and nurtured Chicago's Democratic organization, one that has savaged the city of his political birth for decades and helped leave inner-city neighborhoods in ruins.
But the other day, Obama lectured on what's wrong with America: Trump and cynicism.
"The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference," Obama said. "The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism -- a cynicism that's led too many people to turn away from politics and stay home on Election Day."
Obama did get a legitimate thwack at Trump, for the president's inexcusable and cowardly equivocation on those white rioters of Charlottesville.
"We're sure as heck supposed to stand up, clearly and unequivocally, to Nazi sympathizers," Obama said. "How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad?"
Obama's correct. But it shouldn't have been difficult for Obama to use the words "Islamic terrorism" when describing Iran, a nation that exports terrorism and was the beneficiary of Obama's nuclear deal. Yet he never could use those words.
The mullahs of Iran won't waste their time waving tiki torches in Charlottesville, playing the alt-right's ugly brand of racial identity politics with a few angry white boys.
Iran talks about blowing Israel off the face of the earth.
Was it cynical of Obama to manipulate journalists and American public opinion in favor of his Iran nuclear deal?
Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, bragged about it to The New York Times, saying the media was full of inexperienced know-nothings who were helpless before him.
"We created an echo chamber," Rhodes was quoted as saying. "They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say."
Was it cynical for Obama to blame the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi on some amateur video? And then to send White House officials out on national news shows to lie about it?
Was it cynical for his administration to unleash the IRS on conservative groups?
Trump's loud and boorish verbal attacks on media as "fake news" clearly upset journalists and energize Trump's base, which loathes much of journalism. But is that cynicism or political alley fighting?
Obama would never stand before a jeering crowd and yell at reporters. Instead, Obama used the federal hammer to spy on The Associated Press and Fox News reporter James Rosen.
Obama's actions against the media were "the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate," said Leonard Downie, former executive editor of the Post in a 2013 report of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Waters is often ridiculed. And Democratic leaders hold her at arm's length, treating her as something of a clown, an Al Sharpton in heels.
But she's honest about what she wants.
In Chicago, a city facing financial ruin and street gang slaughter and high taxes, taxpayers are helping build for him a great temple of adoration, not a presidential library.
Some might think this cynical. But Obama hasn't said so. He knows what it is.
(John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His Twitter handle is @johnkass.)
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