If the President Defends Liberalism and No One Listens, Does It Matter?

In their despair over the debt-ceiling deal, liberals have admonished President Obama for his failure to use the “bully pulpit” and take his case to the public. Political psychologist Drew Westen offered a lengthy version of this argument in last week’s New York Times, lamenting Obama’s failure to capture the public’s imagination and act as a national advocate for liberalism.

The problem with this critique, as pointed out by many, is that Obama has articulated a political vision for the country and has repeatedly defended liberalism as a governing ideology. The issue isn’t that Obama hasn’t been talking; it’s that the press hasn’t been listening.

For an example, take President Obama’s ongoing bus tour through the Midwest. As part of this event, he stopped in Cannon Falls, Minnesota for a town hall with residents. Obama gave brief remarks, and then turned the mic over to the crowd for a lengthy question and answer session, during which he gave a forceful defense of government in the face of GOP attacks on the public interest.

“As frustrated as you are about politics, don’t let this seep into how you feel about government … Don’t buy into this notion that government can’t do any good,” declared the president, “Government is what built the interstate highway system, it’s what sent a man to the moon, and it’s what made the investments that have helped make this country great.”

Here’s a prediction: Not only will this not persuade recalcitrant Republicans to drop their opposition to renewed economic aid (the stated purpose of this bus tour), but progressive critics will downplay it -- in favor of attacks on Obama’s alleged “betrayal” -- and mainstream media outlets will ignore it. Already, Politico has managed to liveblog the event without a single nod toward Obama’s strong defense of the public sector.

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