Obama to ‘Glass Is Half Empty’ Democrats: “Guys, Wake Up Here”

By Maya

Sep 28, 2010 10:49am

Continuing to battle a lack of liberal enthusiasm, President Obama told Rolling Stone magazine that Democrats need to realize all of his administration’s achievement.

“One of the healthy things about the Democratic Party is that it is diverse and opinionated,” the president said. “We have big arguments within the party because we got a big tent, and that tent grew during my election and in the midterm election previously. So making everybody happy within the Democratic Party is always going to be tough.”

Continued the president: “Some of it, also, has to do with — and I joke about it — that there's a turn of mind among Democrats and progressives where a lot of times we see the glass as half-empty. It's like, ‘Well, gosh, we've got this historic health care legislation that we've been trying to get for 100 years, but it didn't have every bell and whistle that we wanted right now, so let's focus on what we didn't get instead of what we got.’ That self-critical element of the progressive mind is probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating.”

Mr. Obama said that “when I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, ‘Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.’
Said the president after listing a number of legislative victories, “You look at all this, and you say, ‘Folks, that's what you elected me to do.’ I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we've probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do — and by the way, I've got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we've accomplished.”

The president said, “What is true, and this is part of what can frustrate folks, is that over the past 20 months, we made a series of decisions that were focused on governance, and sometimes there was a conflict between governance and politics. So there were some areas where we could have picked a fight with Republicans that might have gotten our base feeling good, but would have resulted in us not getting legislation done. I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and The Huffington Post, and we would not have health care legislation now. I could have taken certain positions on aspects of the financial regulatory bill, where we got 90 percent of what we set out to get, and I could have held out for that last 10 percent, and we wouldn't have a bill. You've got to make a set of decisions in terms of ‘What are we trying to do here? Are we trying to just keep everybody ginned up for the next election, or at some point do you try to win elections because you're actually trying to govern?’ I made a decision early on in my presidency that if I had an opportunity to do things that would make a difference for years to come, I'm going to go ahead and take it.”

On Monday night, Vice President Biden told MSNBC that those Democrats who “didn't get everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better, continue to move forward, but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything that we stand for in terms of the initiatives we put forward.”

Earlier on Monday, the vice president told Democrats to "remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives.”

Last week President Obama said he had a message for “griping and groaning Democrats…Folks: wake up. This is not some academic exercise. As Joe Biden put it, Don’t compare us to the Almighty, compare us to the alternative.”

Last month, press secretary Robert Gibbs disparaged those he called “the professional left” in an interview with The Hill, saying, “I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it’s crazy. They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality…They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Someone phone will.i.am, I think we have some more inspirational phrases to put to music.

-Jake Tapper

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