President Meanie

In a speech on immigration policy this week, President Obama chided Republicans for constantly moving the goalposts and refusing to take “yes” for an answer. The president added, however, that he’s still “going to do my part to lead a constructive and civil debate on these issues.”

This seems to have annoyed the hell out of Charles Krauthammer.

Constructive and civil debate — like the one Obama initiated just four weeks ago on deficit reduction? The speech in which he accused the Republicans of abandoning families of autistic and Down syndrome kids? The debate in which Obama’s secretary of health and human services said that the Republican Medicare plan would make old folks “die sooner”?

In this same spirit of comity and mutual respect, Obama’s most recent invitation to civil discourse — on immigration — came just 11 minutes after he accused opponents of moving the goal posts on border enforcement. “Maybe they’ll need a moat,” he said sarcastically. “Maybe they want alligators in the moat.”

Nice touch. Looks like the Tucson truce — no demonization, no cross-hairs metaphors — is officially over.

This is just fascinating to me. For two years, President Obama has gone to great lengths — arguably, too many — to find common ground with his Republican adversaries. He’s offered compromises and concessions; he’s offered to work on issues important to the GOP; he’s even frequently outraged his own base in trying stake out middle ground. In return, Republicans have generally responded with inflexibility, extremism, and blinding, seething rage.

On a whole host of issues, including immigration, the White House has even accepted policy measures Republicans have championed for years, only to find GOP leaders changing their minds about ideas upon learning Obama agrees with them.

But if the president responds to this by chiding Republicans in public, this is deemed outrageous. President Meanie is overly “partisan” and abandoning “civility.” The “Tucson truce” is over.

I’m curious, has Charles Krauthammer listened to a single Republican speech since January? Has he watched a single hour of a Fox News broadcast?

If Obama were making untrue claims, he’d certainly deserve criticism. But Krauthammer isn’t questioning the accuracy of the president’s remarks; he’s questioning the president’s willingness to hurt Republicans’ feelings. In the midst of important policy disputes, the right is stuck in the politics of personal grievance. We heard a lot of this in April, after the president publicly condemned the GOP’s radical budget plan, and we’re a lot of this now.

If Obama had been reckless in his rhetoric and/or over the top in partisan name-calling, I could understand some mild pushback. But joking about GOP demands for an alligator-filled moat is (a) funny, and (b) an exaggeration intended to highlight a credible policy point.

Whining about Obama’s occasional sarcasm is just bizarre. We’re left with the impression from voices like Krauthammer’s that Republicans are entitled to vitriol, but the president isn’t supposed to complain. He’s just supposed to take it.

I’m starting to think Republicans can dish it out, but they look for the fainting couch when Democrats return the favor.