President Barack Obama is increasingly finding himself in the uncomfortable position of facing fire from both the Left and the Right. With his unyielding support for the healthcare law and his refusal to adequately address the disgustingly large and dangerous deficit we face, he remains increasingly at odds with both conservatives and moderates. With his attempts to portray himself as more of a centrist following the "shellacking" in November and his realization that some things are harder to change than he originally wanted (our foreign policy chief among them), he is earning the ire of the Left. Actor Matt Damon joins a slew of Hollywood types
in criticizing the President. Damon, one of President Obama's most visible celebrity supporters in 2008, has said that he does not believe the president is doing a good job and said that Obama "misinterpreted his mandate. A friend of mine said to me the other day, 'I no longer hope for audacity.'"
Barbra Streisand and Jane Lynch have hit him from the left on his lackluster efforts to address gay rights. Hugh Hefner has hit him on foreign policy, Robert Redford on the environment, and Spike Lee on his slow response to the Gulf Oil disaster. Keith Olbermann spent much of his airtime before departing his show recently criticizing the Obama administration, particularly his embrace of the extension of the Bush tax cuts.
Politically, particularly with the hiring of William Daley
as his new chief of staff, it seems like Obama is reacting to his midterm losses and massive discontent by moving towards the center, as President Clinton successfully managed to do in the 1990s. However, this will not work nearly as well for Obama as it did for Clinton. In foreign policy, he is earning the ire of his left flank for continuing the War on Terror almost just like President Bush did, maintaining forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and keeping Guantanamo Bay open. However, he is drawing the condemnation of the right for signing the START Treaty and seeming to weaken America's influence and stature in the world. In domestic policy, both the Left and the Right are hitting him for his waffling on gays and marriage, his ineffectiveness thus far in dealing with the budget, and the healthcare bill.
He cannot portray himself as a centrist while maintaining his support for the healthcare bill and current government spending levels. He cannot win over his left flank with his foreign policy record and generally poor politicking in Washington and abroad. An attack from an insurgent on the flank (think someone like Kucinich or Feingold) during the election can hurt him; even if one does not happen and he earns the begrudging support of the far left, lackluster supporters are bad at fundraising and grassroots activism. However, Republicans should not be lulled into a false sense of security-- this is, after all, the inexperienced fellow who managed to successfully take down the Clinton political machine, and the Republican Party has the massively important and difficult decision of finding a candidate able to take this discontent and transform it into a movement. Regardless, this is sure to be an interesting election.