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With Friends Like Maureen Dowd, Obama Doesn’t Need Enemies

By making excuses for his missteps and slandering his opponents as racists, the president's cheerleaders don't help him; they hurt him.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

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September 13, 2009 - 12:36 am
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The good news for the White House is that some of President Obama’s critics are a blessing. But the bad news is that some of his supporters are a curse.

Obama’s critics can be so clumsy, petty, and disrespectful as to make the president look good by comparison. Meanwhile, his supporters are so blind to his faults that they hurt him by making excuses and slandering opponents instead of offering constructive criticism.

Witness the health care debate. When Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) embarrassed himself by yelling out “you lie!” during a presidential address to Congress, after Obama claimed that health care reform legislation would not provide benefits to illegal immigrants, it was a gift for the White House.

Not only did that lame stunt help solidify the Republicans’ reputation as “the party of no” and play into the narrative of the GOP as the party of intolerance, it also provided the Obama-fawning media with a convenient distraction that allowed it to gloss over more pressing issues in the debate. So instead of talking about the pickle that Obama is in trying to please both liberal and conservative Democrats or asking how the administration can achieve what would seem to be the unattainable trifecta of expanding coverage, keeping costs down, and protecting the coverage that people already have, the media spent several days focused on Wilson’s outburst. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

But there’s another side to that coin. When Obama supporters pounce on Republican missteps and try to deflect any negative criticism by making the GOP the issue, they’re not doing the president any favors. In fact, all they’re doing is glossing over the flaws in Obama’s health care plan and the pitiful way in which he has handled the issue. Listening to Obama’s die-hard supporters, you’d never know that 52 percent of Americans — according to a recent Associated Press poll — disapprove of the president’s handling of health care.

Nor are Obama’s supporters doing him much good when they try to portray his critics as defective in some way — intolerant, racist, mean-spirited, or, in the case of Wilson, just plain rude. Hopefully, Americans see through that.

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