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What if Obama really wants a fight over gay pajamas?

Democrat president Barack Obama speaks at the Human Rights Dinner Washington 10-10-09

A little something to think about:

Have you too noticed that very few accidents seem to happen around Barack Obama?

Sure, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright association blew up in his face; that was just a matter of time and came not from Republicans but from fellow Democrats. One day the Harvard-educated, freshman senator from Illinois thought there were 57 states. He didn't know Canada had a prime minister, not a president. And it took some doing for the man to grudgingly give in to that stupid lapel flag pin thing.

The Geithner-Daschle-Solis back-tax deals were also messy.

But those gaffes happened early in the presidential campaign or the administration. He and his team have been touching every conceivable base at every opportunity, from tonight's Latin music fiesta at the White House to marking Leif Erikson Day to earn the Viking vote.

In fact, Obama's devoted so much time cultivating and nurturing these political niches that critics credibly suggest he might profitably invest less effort in the perpetual campaign mode -- flying off to Copenhagen to take an embarrassingly blunt public hit for the Chicago machine and chatting up that serial philanderer on the CBS late show -- and put in a lot more shirt-sleeve time in the Oval Office being the new president at the old desk.

On Saturday night before he was asked about "don't ask-don't tell" Obama told the banqueting but impatient Human Rights Campaign crowd (full text right here) all the Democratically correct things it wanted to hear before the big march for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality the next day.

So it was very surprising -- even jarring -- when on Sunday CNBC's John Harwood, long a respected political journalist, reported a conversation with an anonymous White....

... House "advisor" about the growing grumbling coming not from the predictable party of No but from, oh my, Obama's own political left, described as the "Internet left fringe."

Here, just hours after Obama's warm remarks to his applauding gay constituency, is how Harwood described the conversation on air:

For a sign of how seriously the White House does or doesn't take this opposition, one adviser told me today those bloggers need to take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult.

Barack Obama senior adviser David Axelrod

There's nothing inherently wrong with pajamas. Obama was wearing his when he found about his Nobel Peace Prize early Friday.

In an e-mail to Huffington Post Monday Harwood clarified that the advisor was referring to the whole Democratic left, not just gays and lesbians.

But predictably such blunt talk ignited a furor over in that nattering neighborhood.

AmericaBlog's thoughtful John Aravosis wrote:

So the gay community, and its concerns about President Obama's inaction, and backtracking, on DADT and DOMA, are now, according to President Obama's White House, part of a larger "fringe" that acts like small children who play in their pajamas and need to grow up. (And a note to our readers: The White House just included all of you in that loony "left fringe.")
I wonder how the Human Rights Campaign is going to explain how the White House just knifed our community less than 24 hours after he went to their dinner and claimed he was our friend.

Over at FireDogLake Jane Hamsher wrote:

That is just classic. After pandering to LGBT leaders last night the truth comes out. Dear gays: Grow up and let us get about the serious business of governance. Signed, some dude who's too afraid to give his real name.

And for the last 36 hours most of the media willingly chronicled the apparent wildfire spreading on Obama's home turf. As we're doing right here right now.

Harwood's unidentified White House advisor sounds very much like someone from Chicago politics, where for decades Democratic tribal leaders have supremely ruled with the humility-free confidence of a machine that regularly controls 49 of 50 wards, sometimes permitting the survival of one lonely, loud-mouthed independent to symbolize opposition.

Obama and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel

Harwood's advisor also sounds suspiciously like, say, David Axelrod, senior advisor to Obama (see photo on cellphone), who covered the city's political antics for years as a print reporter.

Or Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff (see photo, right), who learned politics there as a machine go-fer in the 1980s before working as money man for Bill Clinton, entering the House (in the vacant seat of then new, now indicted ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich) and engineering the Democratic House takeover of 2006.

How'd he do that?

By recruiting dozens of conservative/centrist (that is to say, non-left) Democrats into successful candidacies in normally Republican districts. The kinds of comfortable suburban places where left-leaning Democrats might normally assemble town halls with more signs than spectators.

Neither Axelrod nor Emanuel lacks confidence nor the media savvy that the pajamas line was a quotable nugget impossible for any journalist to resist. And -- here's the key -- a line certain to light fuses on the Democratic left.

Now, why would a Democratic White House want to annoy -- even infuriate -- the far side of its activist liberal base that was so crucial to his election? Well, what are they gonna do, announce allegiance to Ron Paul? That ultra-progressive sector simply has nowhere else to go. So, what's to worry?

Also, Obama enjoys overwhelming support generally among the nation's Democrats. So what if his popularity there plummets to 80%?

Now, who's the president gonna need to support healthcare reform and bandage this Afghan mess heading into the 2010 midterm election year when history says he'll likely lose seats on the Hill? Bingo, those same conservative/centrist House pals of Emanuel's whose incumbencies are a main shield against any Republican resurgence.

Oh, and about those crucial Independents who elected Obama last November and then started falling away all summer as Obama's liberal spending, reforms and deficits metastasized? What better way to let those swayable folks come back home than by asking the helpful question, how can Obama possibly be an ultra-liberal if he's being so publicly vilified by angry ultra-liberals?

So it was no accident whatsoever when that wily White House "advisor" explained, "governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo (top): President Obama. Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Photo: (middle): Senior advisor David Axelrod. Credit: Associated Press

Photo (bottom): White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emauel talks to President Obama. Credit: Charles Arbogast / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (16)

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Very poorly written article....more like the ramblings of a mental patient than a thoughtful piece be an LA TIMES journalist.

Forget about trying to nail Obama. What about what Hilary Rosen said during her debate with Lt. Dan Choi, Michael Signorile and Dan Savage? When Savage challenged her why the president hadn't enforced a temporary stop gap on DADT, she responded with, "because the gay military advocates told him not to. And you know that."

Nor Savage or any of the other gentlemen on the panel responded or argued with her. And I for one have been intrigued ever since. Particularly since neither the gay press or the mainstream press has yet to acknowledge that she even said it.

I think focusing on Obama is the wrong angle. Might be a better idea to try and find out from Rosen what the hell she meant. I'd certainly like to know.

Hey, I'm a retiree for two years now, and what's wrong with wearing pajamas all day long as I sit and play on the computer??? When asked what I plan to do once I retire, my response was: Sleep. And boy have I enjoyed sleeping in until noon. Why, gasp! I've even worn my pajamas all day long as well. I'm 64, female, happily married to another old retiree and I blog, too, but I don't waste my time taking potshots at the president. He's kinda like the substitute teacher, you know, the former teacher wearing a bulls eye on her back as she walks into a waiting room of gleeful charges hungry for another victim. I'm neither gay nor ultra progressive - just another individual enjoying the privilege of wearing her pj's all day if she damn well feels like it. Get over it, media.

Plenty of accidents happen around Obama, it's simply that they get swept under the carpet or ignored as "distractions". The truth is that the news media is every bit as involved in creating characters and drama out of politics as Mark Burnett is on his reality shows. The character of the Barack Obama who never makes mistakes is undermined by video of him babbling incoherently when his teleprompter goes out and by giving the Prime Minister of the UK a set of DVDs that can't be played on UK DVD players. Obama makes plenty of mistakes but the media ignores them, downplays them, or tries to spin them as something clever and intentional, which is what's happening in this article.

It is interesting that a group of people who USED the internet to their advantage are now turning on those same groups who propelled them to the WH. I have to say to all those younger then 25 WELCOME to politics! Did you all really think that there would be "change" and "hope" and that every IDEAL you ever possessed would be acted on? or even a couple of them? If you truly did I hope you wised up though I doubt you will as it's apparant that a bunch of syrupy words can sway your attention away from the reality of what it takes to run a country and keep you safe. McCain wasn't much and I mean that whole heartedly but at least he would have kept us safe instead of making nice with dictators! which btw makes gay leftwing bloggers & FOX more insidious then those dictators as the WH gives very nice attention to them and not YOU guys!

I already announce allegiance to Ron Paul. If you haven't yet, get a brain and look at what is happening to our country.

Actually, the left pajama wearing fringe could do worse than pledging their allegiance to Ron Paul. They may disagree with him violently on some things, but he does stick to his principles.

And one of his principles is that what an individual does in their pajamas, barring hurting someone else, is absolutely none of the government's business. Nor is who marries whom.


Where have you been? are you back from outerspace? so glad your ship made it back!

Ok, here's where you've left off. We'd like for you to do what you're good at; more mocking on the good Dr. Ron Paul



CA prop 8 was nearly 50/50 vote overwhelmingly opposed by PROGRESSIVES in CA. So is Obama's savvy campaign manager or his arm twister Rahm going to magicly "FIX" the anger of the Democratic ATM machine CA, when we LGBTs and our friends won't give a DIME or a VOTE...after we are given NOTHING?

After reading this story,I feel cheap and used as a gay 2nd class citizen in so called free America. Ok,maybe more like an unwilling pawn. There is no humanity in politics as far as I can see.Hate to say it but maybe Barney Frank was right,"The only pressure they will succeed in is pushing down the grass."

Well, got a little hangover, do we?
Forgot how we ended up in bed with that man you didnt know?

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.
Hope you'll enjoy the next 3 years learning and re-learning that lesson...

Permanent campaign mode or not . . . if Obama and his cronies jam this healthcare bill down our throat, prepare for a change in Congressional leadership in 2010. America is waking up to the empty shirt we elected in 2008.

You need to stop putting Ron Paul in with all the other clowns that collectively are called the Republican Party. Look at his positions and tell me that he lacks common sense. The only thing I'm disappointed about is that he's a creationist (I'm agnostic). But I'd support him over a non-religious politician who kowtows to the Federal Reserve, wants to spend more money that we don't have, and justifies a Middle East presence even though it'll cost more American AND non-American lives.

Obama was never in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbians. He made that clear from day one. Very clear. Yet gay and lesbians supported him; like one would support a parent in hopes to get a large inheritance from them one day. When gay and lesbians still talk about their high hopes for equal rights under the big O, it puzzles me. It is like I am talking to a psych patient who has a dis-connect with reality.

I think that the origin of the comment: Bloggers should not wear their pajamas, get dressed and realized that a country is too divided to govern, complicated and difficult.

We have more important things to worry about than pajamas. Dont ya think?


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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