In Love with Conflict

Cenk Uygur had a piece today on Daily Kos today that personifies the Professional Left's romance with conflict. Conflict not for any particular outcome but conflict for conflict's sake. Cenk opens with such a hubris:
Let me give you a small example nobody talks about, but I think is telling. After Gabby Giffords was shot, his administration indicated that he would do a major speech on gun control ... later. I told my audience that was not going to happen. Why? Because I know Obama. He hates, hates, hates conflict. And he would never take on an issue where he did not have overwhelming support. It's not in his nature.
Cenk is a either ignorant or he's flat making crap up. The administration never indicated that the President would do a major speech on gun control - that was made up by the media. In fact, most sites that seem to have reported that there was going to be "a major speech" are right wing blogs. What the administration said, specifically, what then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, is as follows:
As for guns, Gibbs said: "I wouldn't rule out that at some point the president talks about the issues surrounding gun violence. I don't have a timetable or obviously what he would say, but I wouldn't rule that out in the future."
See, what happened is that Gibbs said this in the aftermath of the President's State of the Union speech and complaints that he didn't mention gun control in the speech, ergo, conflict-lovers like Cenk translated that into a promise of a major speech on gun control. Which, of course, the administration never said the President would do. The administration is not filled with loose-lips like Cenk - they would never commit the President to any speech without knowing the date, time and place in advance.

By the way, did the president take up the issue of gun control and talk about it? Yes he did. On March 31, 2011, he wrote an opinion column in the Arizona Daily Star exactly on this issue, in which the President spoke out in favor of better data in background checks and closing the gun show loophole to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. And just last month, the administration issued regulations requiring gun sellers in border states to report if a buyer buys two or more semiautomatic weapons within 5 days. You may think what you wish of the President's opinion column and the regulatory efforts, and I am no expert on gun policy, but you cannot be intellectually honest, do your homework, and say that the President did not take the issue of gun violence seriously.

But really, Cenk's lie about the president did not stand by itself. It stood to reinforce a frame that the President "hates, hates, hates conflict." And that he would "never take on an issue where he did not have overwhelming public support." Oh, I see.

health reform support 2010
Credit: CBS News, CBS News Polling
Yes, the President has never gone against the current for something he believes in. Never would he ever take on an issue where he did not have overwhelming public support. He would never push through a controversial issue like health care reform when the Republicans and the Teabaggers were beating it down with the full cooperation of Cenk and his Firebagger buddies, and the public support for it was plummeting thanks to their lies and misinformation. It's not in President Obama's nature. Because you see, Cenk knows Barack Obama.

So we arrive at the inevitable, undeniable conclusion. Barack Obama does not hate conflict; he just believes that his job, as the President of the United States, is to govern and get things done rather than just browbeat and podium pound about conflicts. His list of accomplishments speak for themselves. The President has proven that he is willing to go to bat and take on conflict when it can result in good policy.

It is not that President Obama hates conflict. It is that Cenk Uygur and his buddies on the poutragist Left love conflict. They are in love with conflict. In their books, conflict is given a high, romantic stature. Their problem with President Obama is not that he "hates" conflict. Their problem with President Obama is that he is not madly, romantically, passionately in love with conflict.

That is what we have seen time and again in the misdirected, ideologue-prone, Professional Left elitist attacks on the president. As they suffer from the CEO Delusion, failing to recognize that the President is not a unitary executive, that the bully-pulpit is not a magic bullet and that he is the president of all Americans and not just the people who live in a Professional Left comfy echo-chamber, their real rage comes from seeing the visible lack of the president's. That the President does not embrace conflict as a solution to everything, regardless of legislative or policy effectiveness, eats them up. They want to see the President as the conflictinator in chief.

I doubt even Cenk is enough of a bobble-head to actually think that a barn-burner from the President could get a Republican House and a broken Senate to approve meaningful gun safety measures. But in Cenk's mind, the President should have burned some barns anyway. Why? So something would be accomplished? Nope, just for the sake of conflict. For the romantic, passionate, mad love of conflict as an end in itself.

They have themselves made clear that this is not about the President's policies - at any rate they are incapable of actually understanding and describing policy - but about the president's rhetoric and style - he's "too conciliatory" to Republicans, that he's "not barnstorming the country", that he's not "putting enough pressure," bottom line, that he's too much of a statesman and not enough of a conflict lover.

And that is what is wrong with our politics and media. They are sensationalized, animated and turned on at the smell of conflict. When Jon Stewart said that the bias in our media and politics was not so much left-wing vs. right-wing but in favor of conflict, sensationalism and laziness, he was on to something. I wouldn't say the media does not have a right wing bias. It clearly does. But even the so-called Left media has a strong bias - and indeed a love affair - with conflict. A focus on conflict reduces our ability to be unbiased judges of what is happening, and clouds our ability to see things clearly. Conflict, while sometimes necessary, often generates anger, and we do not make good decisions when we are angry.