Obama Has to Work Twice as Hard to Get Half the Credit, Even from "Liberals"


On Thursday night, Rachel Maddow opened her show on MSNBC with an excellent segment reviewing the leapfrog progress made for liberal social causes under President Obama - most just since his re-election. She noted that the drug war - waged under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, seems to be ratcheting down with the Justice Department's directives to avoid mandatory drug sentencing as much as possible, and now ensuring Colorado and Washington states that they can implement their marijuana legalization laws, without worrying about a federal court challenge.

She celebrated the fact that after a Democratic president signing into law Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act - and a Republican president promising to make gays second class citizens forever and winning electoral victories on that promise - not only are DADT and DOMA history, but that the IRS has now announced that it will treat same-sex married couples equally under federal tax laws, regardless of whether the current state of residence for that couple recognizes that marriage.

Maddow happily underscored the fact that after exploding for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the prison population is now on a downward trajectory three years in a row.

She even cheerfully - and truthfully - noted that after years of exploding the numbers of the uninsured, they have begun to fall as young adults began to gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and that the same law is expected to result in the largest nose dive ever in the number of the uninsured next year when the exchanges become operative.

All great liberal milestone achievements in social policy. All worthy of celebration with great pride for every progressive and every liberal in this country. And Rachel was correct to note that progress at a time we are led to believe that our politics are too broken to affect any significant change.

Except that she left out an important factor in this sea-change almost entirely. The president under whose leadership and under whose administration all of this happened got just one mention. Just one. Bill Clinton got several mentions, albeit negative. But President Obama? Maddow didn't see it fit to mention him more than once in the entire 11 minute and 22 second segment, when she credited him for signing a law reducing sentencing disparities between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine offenses.

By my count, presidents ranging from Nixon to Reagan to Bush Sr. to Clinton to Bush Jr. all earned more mentions from Rachel Maddow than the leader of the era that is seeing the changes she so excitingly celebrates, Barack Obama.

Maddow didn't see it fit to mention that it was President Obama whose deliberate, patient and unwavering leadership ultimately ended the injustice of telling our soldiers that they must conceal who they love in order to serve the country they love. Maddow didn't think it necessary to point out that a big part of the reason the Defense of Marriage Act is now relegated to the dustbins of history is that President Obama made an executive decision not to defend it in court, and that the IRS is now acting under his direction and his policies.

Maddow didn't feel it appropriate to clarify whose policies Attorney General Holder - who is awesome, no doubt - was carrying out when he directed US attorneys not to seek mandatory drug sentences, or when it dropped threat of a federal challenge to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.

She didn't even see it fit to remind her audience that it was President Obama who stuck with it through thick and thin and got health reform passed after presidents for 50 years had failed - that the man whose name 'ObamaCare' bears has the battle scars to show for it.

Why is that? Why is it that the presidents under whom the problems sprouted deserved name drops and condemnation but the president who oversees the tremendous progress doesn't deserve at least an equal amount of credit and praise? Why is he all but overlooked in the citations of the mountain-moving accomplishments of his administration and his era?

The answer to those questions is something our media needs to begin thinking about. Rachel Maddow isn't alone in overlooking - to put it mildly - this president while gleefully reporting on progressive leaps under his administration. She is symptomatic of the "liberal" media, or what's left of it.

Perhaps the gloating about the progress President Obama made would be more difficult for many of the Left's professional pundits if they had to expressly associate it with a man they regularly degrade as weak, a bad negotiator, and a center-right fraud who doesn't deserve his party's label.

Perhaps it's just a tad difficult to recognize this president's leadership in health care after they spent the better part of the 2009-2010 health care debates trying to join the right wing to stop it under the guise that it wasn't good enough.

Perhaps it'd sting a little were they to recognize that the president responsible for the end of DADT is the one they spent countless hours accusing of being a homophobe who didn't really want to see an end to discrimination. Maybe it's hard to admit that the president's strategy was instrumental in ending DOMA when you've spent years mockingly patronizing him to "evolve already."

Maybe it's a little hurtful to the egos of those who prevaricated that the president hasn't ended the war on drugs by the power vested in him with their imaginary royal decree to now acknowledge that it took Barack Obama to systematically begin to move the government away from chest-thumping drug policies that only hurt the most vulnerable.

But if it is their personal ego or a conflict of heart that is causing this dissociation between celebrating the president's accomplishments and celebrating the president himself, I suggest the Left's media types learn to set that ego and conflict aside. Whether that involves recognizing the faults within oneself or leaving behind preconceived notions of President Obama's character flaws, it's time to act like adults and give credit where credit is due.

One more thing. It's not enough simply to acknowledge the president as the catalyst and the brain behind for these vast sea changes in social policy. This whole week, we have been reminded of personal and institutional racial prejudices that still cling to this experiment we call America. And so, it is time to recognize the unprecedented odds, daunting challenges and institutional resistance Barack Obama had to face not simply to rise the office of the President, but the greater odds, the steeper challenges and the tougher resistance he has had to face for being president while black.

Anyone who considers themselves part of the progressive media landscape and talks about the great economic divide and institutional racism cannot do so just from their comfy chairs in their New York studios rolling in their million-dollar salaries. I'm glad some of them want to highlight the progresses we have made in the Obama era, but by refusing to associate and credit the president, they perpetuate the same institutional prejudices - wittingly or not - that they claim to fingerwag and fight against. By refusing to explain that Obama has to work twice as hard to get half the credit they contribute to Obama having to work twice as hard to get half the credit.