JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 12, 2010
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that a new conservative narrative, that of Obama as a “bully” (which I wrote about in my latest TRB). Earlier today I also highlighted Fred Barnes’ column that attacks the President for refusing to compromise. This image of Obama as a strong figure refusing to cede any ground marks a big shift in the right-wing media (or in the very at least at The Weekly Standard). Until recently, the magazine had depicted Obama as weak, even pathetic.
When Obama first came to Washington the Standard featured covers such as these:
Here's a cover from August:
The editorial gloated that Republicans, by refusing to compromise, had sunk Obama's agenda:
In domestic policy, it's the American public who deserve much credit for slowing down and perhaps capsizing Obamacare. But Republican politicians and conservative policy analysts and polemicists have done their part. GOP senators and congressmen refused to be intimidated by claims that a victory of some version of Obama care was inevitable. They therefore weren't suckered into foolish equivocations and compromises.
A month later, the Democrats were still goofy, pathetic figures:
An October piece by Noemie Emerie presented a sort of eulogy for Obama:
For a talented man who ran a textbook campaign and was declared a great president before he even took office, Barack Obama has been having a rather hard time. The Midas Touch of 2008 has seemed to desert him. The famed oratory has not made a difference. The uniting president has turned into the ultra-divider. The music has died.
Now that Obama has won his biggest legislative priority and is closing in on at least one other important win, the tone is change. The hapless patsy has become the snarling bully. The lack of Republican support for Obama's agenda, once a credit to Republican tough-mindedness, is now blamed upon Obama's stubbornness. Here is a recent cover of Obama--the nefarious, but powerful, overseer:
The Standard is a reliable reflection of Republican propaganda tropes. The shift in tone from gloating at Obama's weakness to complaining at the unfairness of his strength is the clearest signal Obama seems to be escaping the worst fate -- to be a Jimmy Carter or a Bill Clinton circa 1994 or 1995.