Some people really don’t take criticism well.
At President Obama’s press conference this week, the president urged members of Congress, especially obdurate Republicans, to be more responsible. Obama called for compromise, cooperation, and putting national interests above partisan interests. He was slightly more aggressive than usual — this was not well received by some in the media — but it’s not as if the president was reduced to name-calling and school-yard bullying. At best, his remarks represented mild chiding.
GOP officials, to put it mildly, were not pleased with Obama’s call for responsible policymaking. It’s not just that Republicans disagree with the president; the problem yesterday was that they whined bitterly that Obama hurt their feelings by saying mean things about them.
Yesterday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley if he’s concerned that Obama’s “bluntness drove the two sides further apart” in the debt-reduction talks. I found Daley’s response pretty compelling.
“I find it ironic that at times people who continually attack the president, beat him up on not only on policy, personality, a whole bunch of things, the minute he takes a tone that is a little more direct, and it was not personal, it was direct in that the leaders of Congress in both parties and especially those who are saying that revenue are off the table period in trying to solve this problem, that somehow that’s going to hurt the feelings of people.
“This is not a time to worry about feelings, this is a time to get results,” Daley told me.
The Republican response this week reminds me of what transpired in April, when the president delivered a big speech on debt reduction. Obama criticized the radical GOP budget plan, explained (accurately) the extent to which Republicans are responsible for the current budget mess, and the right quickly became apoplectic about the president being a big meanie who upset delicate GOP sensibilities.
When it comes to the caricatures of the parties, Republicans like to present themselves as the “Daddy Party.” They’re the ones who are “tough” and “aggressive,” and refuse to get pushed around. It’s striking, then, to see how quickly they fall to pieces the moment Obama says something unpleasant-but-true about them. Suddenly, the folks who claim to be strong find their knees buckling and look for the fainting couch.
For over two years, President Obama has gone to great lengths — arguably, too often and too far — to find common ground with his Republican adversaries. In return, Republicans have generally responded with inflexibility, extremism, and blinding, seething rage.
And if the president responds to this by chiding Republicans in public, this is deemed outrageous.
In the midst of important policy disputes, the GOP is stuck in the politics of personal grievance. It’s long past time for them to grow up, develop a thicker skin, and bring some maturity to their responsibilities.