Not only does the Obama Administration seem to think it is above criticism but ought to be immune from it as well

Not only does the Obama Administration seem to think it is above criticism but ought to be immune from it as well.

The Obama Administration Can’t Handle Dissent

Aaron Goldstein  Bio

By Aaron Goldstein  Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is the Obama Administration above criticism?

It would appear so if one were to listen to David Axelrod, President Obama’s Senior Advisor.  Appearing on CBS’ Face The Nation this past Sunday, Axelrod was at once threatened and befuddled by the tea parties that were held throughout the United States on April 15th.

When asked about the tea parties, Axelrod told guest host Harry Smith two things that have raised eyebrows.  A transcript of the interview can be found here.

First, he said, “I think any time you have severe economic conditions there is always an element of disaffection that can mutate into something that’s unhealthy.” To Smith’s credit he pressed Axelrod on the matter when he asked, “Is this unhealthy?”

Axelrod replied, “Well, we’re– this is a country where we value our liberty– our liberties and our ability to express ourselves. And so far these are expressions.”

So far these are expressions?

Does Axelrod honestly think these tea parties will boil over into violence?

We do not know because Smith did not press him further.  However, Axelrod went on to say, “The thing that bewilders me is that this president just cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people.  I think the tea bags should be directed elsewhere because he certainly understands the burden that people face.”

Well, it remains to be seen if President Obama has actually cut taxes much less for 95% of the American people.  It is clear that there are many people in this country who do not believe President Obama, Axelrod and others in this Administration when they repeat this claim.

Yet the Obama Administration is bewildered when any segment of the American public is critical of their policies.  Not only does the Obama Administration seem to think it is above criticism but ought to be immune from it as well.

It is worth noting, that according to the latest Gallup Poll, President Obama has a job approval rating of 63%.  I can only imagine how Axelrod will react to criticism of Obama’s policies should those approval numbers fall below 40%.

That Mr. Axelrod would characterize protests against Obama as unhealthy comes as no surprise to me.  Neither am I surprised by his bewilderment of those who would dare to disagree with The Anointed One.

The reason I am not surprised at Axelrod’s sentiments is because I used to share them.

When you spend a dozen years of your life as a card carrying socialist (and a Canadian one at that) you come to think that all the solutions to life problems are self-evident and that any mess you leave behind won’t smell.

Now, in all fairness, I cannot attribute this to every single person who I ever came across in the NDP.  There were some people I encountered who arrived at their opinions honestly and didn’t disparage those who didn’t share their views.  But that was the exception and not the rule.  And believe me I was just as guilty of that behavior as anyone else.

This behavior was most likely to show itself immediately following an election and that was because the NDP loses elections most of the time.  After an election didn’t go our way (and especially if it went the Conservatives way) someone would invariably say, “How could they be so stupid to vote for the Tories?” It might have been self-evident to us but it certainly wasn’t self-evident to pluralities that voted against us.

Much of this sentiment was directed towards the “working class” who were supposed to vote for us or so we thought.  We would rattle off all the goodies we brought about such as universal health care, universal pensions, unemployment insurance, etc.  For the life of us we could not fathom why people wouldn’t vote for us and when they didn’t we would call them stupid.  By the way, calling people stupid is a sure fire way to get people to not vote for you.

Nevertheless, these sentiments certainly have some resonance in American politics with the success of Thomas Frank’s 2004 book What’s The Matter With Kansas?  Frank argues that people who live in less than affluent areas of the United States (such as Kansas) vote against their economic interests because they are persuaded by conservatives that cultural/moral issues are more important even though they ought not to be.  Frank also argues they are driven by resentment of liberal elites which Frank claims do not exist.  Of course, this assumes Mr. Frank knows the economic interests of the people of Kansas better than the people of Kansas themselves.  It also suggests Mr. Frank presumes to tell people what should be and should not be important in their lives.  If that isn’t liberal elitism I don’t know what is.

I don’t believe quite the same dynamic exists in Canada because the cultural conservatism isn’t quite as prevalent although it is certainly present.  What I can tell you is that some people will become quite annoyed if they are referred to in person, in campaign literature or on radio/TV ads as “working class”, “ordinary Canadians” or “have nots.”

Just because someone works in a unionized manufacturing job why can’t that person have ambitions to be an entrepreneur?

Just because someone works in an unglamorous job who wants to be called ordinary be they Canadian or otherwise?

Just because a family of four makes under $30,000 a year doesn’t mean they want to be described as have nots?

I have seen this language used in various NDP campaigns and can tell you it doesn’t work.

To the credit of the Obama campaign, they avoided this kind of language.  Instead, they said let’s give 95% of working Americans (or of all Americans when the occasion demanded it) a tax cut.  Instead of being stigmatized as “working class”, “ordinary” or a “have not” they were included with nearly all Americans save for those nasty rich people.  It certainly helped Obama get elected.

But once elected to office one is often placed in the extremely awkward position of actually having to back up your B.S.  David Axelrod can tell the American people that 95% of them are getting a tax cut all he wants.  He doesn’t have to look at their declining pay checks and 401K statements accompanied by increased mortgage payments and college tuition.  The last thing people want a political spin doctor telling them is that their taxes are going down when they are going up.  If President Obama, Axelrod and others in the White House insist on repeating this line even if it flies in the face of evidence to the contrary then they should, in the words of Captain Sullenberger, brace themselves for impact.

If the Obama Administration is ill equipped to handle the protests of half a million Americans then they had better get used to it because there is a very good chance our economic situation could take yet another turn for the worse.  Then things will really be “unhealthy” for the Obama Administration because there will be a lot more people on the streets assembling to protest.

In which case the next time we see a bewildered look on David Axelrod’s face will be when the American people put Barack Obama out of work.

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Aaron Goldstein was a card carrying member of the socialist New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP). Since 09/11, Aaron has reconsidered his ideological inclinations and has become a Republican. Earlier this year, Aaron put out a chapbook titled Oysters and the Newborn Child: Melancholy and Dead Musicians. Aaron’s poetry can be found on and Aaron lives and works in Boston.

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