Explaining the lack of outrage

EXPLAINING THE LACK OF OUTRAGE…. Jonathan Martin has a fairly long, 1,600-word piece today, exploring why President Obama is largely unaffected by the controversies the right has tried to gin up.

A Democratic president thrills a French audience by telling it that America has been “arrogant.” He brushes aside 50 years of anti-communist orthodoxy by relaxing restrictions against Fidel Castro’s Cuba. He directs his attorney general to ease a crackdown on medical marijuana and even plays host to the Grateful Dead in the Oval Office.

Several times a month in his young presidency, Barack Obama has done things that cause conservatives to bray, using the phrase once invoked by Bob Dole, “Where’s the outrage?!”

The outrage is definitely there, in certain precincts of Republican politics. What’s notable, however, is that it mostly has stayed there — with little or no effect on Obama.

He has been blithely crossing ideological red lines and dancing on cultural third rails — the kinds of gestures that would have scorched an earlier generation of Democrats — with seeming impunity. Obama’s foes, and even some of his allies, are a bit mystified.

Martin, trying to get to the bottom of this, considers a few angles, including the lack of Republican leaders to lead the charge against the White House, the generational shift, the rise of progressive infrastructure, and the sudden lack of salience in culture-war issues (Obama inviting gay families to the White House Easter Egg Roll barely raised an eyebrow).

But I think there’s probably more to it. For example, some of the Obama-related “outrages” aren’t exactly outrageous. There’s no need to be “mystified” when the president remains unscathed by silly and inconsequential “controversies” manufactured by partisan hacks. Indeed, some of these flaps — remember when it was a huge deal that Obama chuckled during a “60 Minutes” interview — are so nonsensical, it’s become pretty easy for the typical American to tune out conservative outrage as background noise.

They’re the Republicans who cried wolf.

It also seems that Obama isn’t taking any meaningful hits because his policy agenda is fairly close to the one he presented during the campaign. Martin questions, for example, why the president has gotten away with a more progressive policy towards Cuba. Maybe it’s because he already told us he’d do exactly that?

Indeed, with a few notable exceptions, most of the President Obama’s agenda is in line with Candidate Obama’s agenda. He wants to raise taxes on the wealthy while cutting them for the middle class? He wants to reform the health care system? He wants a withdrawal timeline for U.S. troops in Iraq?

Perhaps the president “skates” on these issues — all of which the right finds outrageous — because it’s what voters hired him to do.