Et tu lefties? Obama takes flak from his liberal 'friends'

They supported him during the presidential campaign, but liberals are beginning to criticize Obama on everything from Afghanistan to the economy to climate change.

Jim Young/Reuters
President Obama's approval ratings have dropped below fifty percent.

From the start of his presidency (and even before) Barack Obama has been mercilessly hammered from the right. He’s a socialist! No, he’s a fascist! No surprise there. It’s a stir-‘em-up industry that keeps many bloggers and talk show hosts gainfully employed.

But these day, Obama’s getting it from the left as well -- an annoyance that’s moving toward anger in some cases and that could result in speed bumps if not derailment of some key policy goals.

Pick an issue -- war in Afghanistan, healthcare reform, civil liberties, gay rights, closing the Guantanamo prison camp, global warming, the economy -- and the criticism from liberal activists and commentators is growing at a time when Obama’s job approval rating has just dropped below the 50-percent mark, according to a Gallup Poll out Friday.

Some examples:

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a Princeton economist and Nobel Prize winner, says the financial bailout has been “botched.”

“Throughout the financial crisis key officials -- most notably Timothy Geithner, who was president of the New York Fed in 2008 and is now Treasury secretary -- have shied away from doing anything that might rattle Wall Street,” he writes. “And the bitter paradox is that this play-it-safe approach has ended up undermining prospects for economic recovery.”

• On gay rights, a bunch of liberal activists and bloggers are organizing an effort to postpone donations to the Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America (the successor to the Obama election campaign). No more money, they say, until the Democratic Congress passes, and President Obama signs, legislation enacting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repealing the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays in uniform, and repealing the Defense of Marriage Act seen as a roadblock to same-sex marriage.

• The 5 million-member liberal group threatens primary election challenges to “any Democratic senator who blocks an up-or-down vote on healthcare reform with a public option.” That could complicate things for Obama on a wide range of issues if he loses the bare filibuster-proof Senate majority next year.

• Global warming activist Bill McKibben says Obama has “punted on the hard questions around climate,” and he accuses Obama of an “unwillingness to lead.” Meanwhile, charges McKibben in a Mother Jones essay, there has been “the endless spinning of his climate negotiators … fibbing about the science.”

• At the left-leaning web site, regular columnist Tom Engelhardt writes what he calls “The Afghan Speech Obama Should Give (but Won't).” Here, he fantasizes Obama telling the American people: “I have decided to send no more troops to Afghanistan. Beyond that, I believe it is in the national interest of the American people that this war, like the Iraq War, be drawn down.”

Meanwhile, the typically tart-tongued Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball” accuses Obama of “dithering” on Afghanistan -- a play on former vice president Dick Cheney’s recent charge.

"Is he just too darned intellectual?” Matthews asks. “Too much the egghead? Why did he bow to that Japanese emperor? Why did he pick Tim Geithner to be his economic front-man? Why all this dithering over Afghanistan? And who thought it was a wonderful idea to bring the killers of 9/11 to New York City, the media capital of the world, so they could tell their story?"

Nobody ever said being president was easy, or that your campaign friends -- many of them activists with agendas of their own -- would always be your buddies. Which brings to mind something attributed to Harry Truman: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”


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