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Obama and the Bloggers

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, September 29 2010

Politico's Keach Hagey takes a most Politico angle on Peter Daou's "Liberal Bloggers are Bringing Down the Obama Presidency" post by scoring the nature of the relationship between both liberal bloggers and liberal cable commentators vis-a-vis the White House. Here's the Politico headline: "White House Scorecard: MSNBC Up, Bloggers Down," making the most of the tidbit that White House communications director Bill Burton recently remarked that cable figures Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were performing a useful civic function. And you thought that David Axelrod was indulging in whinging when he complained of a Washington where "every day is scored like the Super Bowl."

More seriously, though, Hagey does do some digging into Daou's notion that the Obama presidency is being tugged under water by criticisms coming from the liberal blogosphere; Daou, who ran Hillary Clinton's 2008 online operation, raises names like Glenn Greenwald, John Aravosis, Digby, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher, and largely credits their criticisms of Obama -- on civil liberties and human rights, in the main -- as being warranted. But, argues Daou, the constant critique of Obama seen on their and others' blogs is a sign of the "rage brewing under the surface" over the unfolding of the Obama presidency.

That said, at least one of Daou's bold-faced names doesn't buy the implication that he's a weight pulling down the Obama administration. Here's Hagey:

Greenwald disagrees with Daou’s argument that bloggers like him are the “crux of the problem for Obama.” If anything, he thinks the White House pays more attention to blogs like his, and the effect that they have on the “chattering class and media elites,” than it probably should.

“I think that bloggers can have an influence in our political discussions and how politicians are perceived and the like, but I think any explanation of the political problems of Obama that doesn’t begin and end with the economic suffering of large numbers of people is fundamentally misguided,” he told POLITICO.

Maybe Axelrod and others in and around the Obama White House expected liberal critics like Aravosis and Hamsher to morph into pro-establishment cheerleaders once a Democrat took power. But if so, it seems like that indicates that they really weren't paying attention to the evolution of the progressive blogosphere from about, oh, 2003 to 2008. (Obama seems to have to done a bit more thinking on the nature of that relationship, judging from his comment in a Rolling Stone interview, cited by Hagey, that the "self-critical element of the progressive mind is probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating.") Reporting that someone is angry with a friend is more powerful than reporting that someone's angry with an adversary; Obama's always had a fuzzy relationship with the netroots, as it were, which gives Greenwald et al's arguments somewhat more legs than they might have if he and others were understood as professional critics.

Here, again, is Daou's original post, and here's Hagey's take on the subject.