There's a phrase that has been conspicuously absent the media's coverage of the recent flap between White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and those he dubbed the "professional left": civil war. In contrast, media coverage of Republican infighting consistently pushes the term.
Gibbs is under fire from the left for sharply criticizing liberal critics of President Obama saying that "they need to be drug-tested" and "will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we've eliminated the Pentagon. That's not reality."
His comments have drawn heated criticism from the left. Democratic firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson, Fla., wants "Bozo the Spokesman" fired. Prominent activist and blogger Jane Hamsher claimed Obama is "having trouble across the board" with liberals. Lefties at the Daily Kos and Democratic Underground were frantic.
Yet almost no "civil war" labels from the media, in contrast to coverage of other instances of intra-party squabbling. The ouster of Dede Scozzafava in the special election in New York's 23rd District earned the "civil war" label 23 times from major media players, according to a Nexis search.
The GOP "civil war" was invariably painted as a "Stalinist" (to use Frank Rich's term) purge of moderates from the party in favor of more conservative, Tea Party-backed candidates.
Of course all it was was run-of-the-mill intra-party politics. There was no purge - it was just Republican voters choosing the more conservative candidate in a year when conservatives' electoral prospects seem bright. Or, as liberal Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman put it, "I`ve been a little skeptical of this Republican 'civil war' story. I mean, all major parties have conflicts and fissures within them."
Don't tell that to Rich. Or George Stephanopoulos, Wolf Blitzer Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, E.J. Dionne, Eugene Robinson, Donna Brazile, Roland Martin, David Gergen, or John King. They all labeled Scozzafava's ouster a sign of a Republican "civil war".
Of course none of these A-list media personalities have used the term in reference to the battle currently ongoing between the White House and the Democratic base. And this is a fight that is not part of the squabbling that takes place whenever two candidates of the same party vie for a nomination.
Gibbs's comments represent an ideological chasm between the governing left and the liberal commentariat. The latter believe that the White House has elevated pragmatism above principle, while the White HOuse believes its far-left critics are too divorced from political reality. That is a more meaningful split than political differences among two candidates for office.
Consider what Congressman Grayson had to say about Gibbs:
No, I don't think he should resign. I think he should be fired. He's done a miserable job. People I know, refer to him as Bozo the Spokesman. He's not conveying the value of the President's strategies, or his plans or his programs. He's doing a miserable job, it's that simple. He's so far in over his head he'd have to reach up to touch his shoes....
If I wanted Fox talking points I'd change the channel to Fox, not listen to the White House. He needs to get his head on straight and do his job... He's doing a miserable job because his heart isn't in it. He belongs on Fox. Not as the White House spokesman.
The folks at major liberal blogs were more than a bit upset as well. Consider this excerpt from far-left blogger Glenn Greenwald:
You may think that the reason you're dissatisfied with the Obama administration is because of substantive objections to their policies: that they've done so little about crisis-level unemployment, foreclosures and widespread economic misery. Or because of the White House's apparently endless devotion to Wall Street. Or because the President has escalated a miserable, pointless and unwinnable war that is entering its ninth year. Or because he has claimed the power to imprison people for life with no charges and to assassinate American citizens without due process, intensified the secrecy weapons and immunity instruments abused by his predecessor, and found all new ways of denying habeas corpus. Or because he granted full-scale legal immunity to those who committed serious crimes in the last administration. Or because he's failed to fulfill -- or affirmatively broken -- promises ranging from transparency to gay rights.
But Robert Gibbs -- in one of the most petulant, self-pitying outbursts seen from a top political official in recent memory, half derived from a paranoid Richard Nixon rant and the other half from a Sean Hannity/Sarah Palin caricature of The Far Left -- is here to tell you that the real reason you're dissatisfied with the President is because you're a fringe, ideological, Leftist extremist ingrate who needs drug counseling.
Or this entry from Daily Kos's Jesse LaGreca AKA MinistryofTruth:
Turns out calling me "F$#^ing retarded" or "On Drugs" doesn't make me FIRED UP, it makes me think you think I'm an asshole, and that doesn't exactly win my vote, now does it?...
The fact is, Mr. Gibbs, If you're trying to convince us NOT TO VOTE FOR YOU in 2010 or 2012, Mission Accomplished!
And if not, and you are this inept at messaging, maybe it's time you stepped down from your post, Mr. Gibbs.
Or these comments from deranged users at the Democratic Underground:
they absolutely never learn and this should tell you the temperature of the white house, the ease with which they say things like this. Obama is no liberal, no leftie, he has contempt for us to allow this culture of thought to exist. and what a masterstroke of timing, to say something like this to an already apparently tepid base before elections. bravo, you b*st*rds. *you* should be drug tested.
the folks that helped get them elected, they want to insult. Two words come to mind one starts with an "F" and the next one starts with a "Y".
Dump Gibbs and bring back Van Jones
There is clearly a battle going in inside the Democratic Party between pragmatists and ideologues. But despite the relatively high level of media coverage if Gibbs's events, the apocalyptic "civil war" rhetoric the media touted so often with regard to Republican infighting is noticeably absent.
Yet again, the media are avoiding proclaiming dire straits for Democrats, despite deep divisions within that party.