Obama Stones Romney

As you may have heard by now, Rolling Stone has just published an interview (with essay) of the president by historian Douglas Brinkley, and like most Rolling Stone interviews with presidents, it will get a lot of attention. Conservatives are already beginning to hyperventilate over this passage:

“You know, kids have good instincts,” Obama offered. “They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.'”

My gut feeling is that this remark, like Jimmy Carter’s “I’ll whip his ass” remark about Ted Kennedy in 1980, will be deemed an acceptably mild obscenity uttered in the heat of battle. But given Mitt Romney’s own thin skin, it could have unfathomable repercussions in RomneyLand.

Much of what Obama said in the interview was campaign boilerplate, though he certainly did slap down the idea that Mitt Romney is best understood as a weathervane rather than as the champion of an extremist ideology:

[W]hat I’m absolutely sure about is that we’ve got the better argument. And Governor Romney understands that. It’s the reason why, after a year and a half of campaigning on plans that very clearly were going to involve $5 trillion worth of tax cuts, he’s trying to fog up the issues, because he knows that the American people aren’t buying what he’s selling….

But understand, there’s no doubt that what he has campaigned on for the last year is what he believes, because we’ve seen it before.

Take that, Matt Bai!

Reading the whole piece very quickly (I may have more to say tomorrow), perhaps the most startling thing came not from Obama but from Brinkley, who came away from the interview (which presumably included some off-the-record exchanges) convinced that after dealing with unemployment and the basic direction of the economy, Obama would make action to deal with climate change his top second-term priority:

While Obama doesn’t wear an Inconvenient Truth T-shirt, he nevertheless understands that environmentalism makes for good business in the 21st century. The high seas and savage winds of fossil-fuel abuse are upon us. Obama has made clear that addressing climate change is the issue of most long-term consequence facing not only America but human civilization itself.

Maybe this is wishful thinking by Brinkley, but if (as I happen to think) there is substantial truth behind it, it’s all the more shocking that it’s a subject that’s off the table during the stretch drive of this campaign. But then again, as a child could tell you, there’s a lot of BS going on.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.