One thing I like about Barack Obama is that when he hands himself lemons, he tries to make lemonade as you see in his response to those who criticized his characterization of the public mood in Pennsylvania. Recall that the whole meetings with the political leadership of rogue states started as a gaffe, but eventually became a synecdoche for willingness to move beyond the conventional wisdom of a broken establishment.OK. So he's no cheap panderer the way Hilary is. But I'd be a lot more sympathetic to this line of defense if Obama actually demonstrated any equanimity on the God & guns issues. There's nothing very controversial in Obama's restatement of the fact that the GOP has capitalized on middle America's lack of faith in government's ability to make a positive difference in their economic lives and has used the culture wars to corral them.
I have no idea whether this particular response to this particular controversy will "work" but it's still the correct approach and one that shows, I think, a more sophisticated grasp of media dynamics than we've seen from most Democrats over the past few years.*
But Obama is totally out of touch with the Democratic Party's complicity in this admittedly pernicious electoral dynamic. He doesn't seem able or willing to acknowledge how the Democratic Party, by its dogmatic and activist moral anarchism, has been equally busy (however unwittingly) driving middle America into the tax-cutting, job-exporting, dollar-eviscerating arms of the GOP. And while economic issues may enjoy a certain natural priority in the public square, social issues and the positions that social conservatives hold were not invented by the GOP ex nihilo.
If Obama actually showed some moderation and flexibility on the policy questions surrounding embryos, guns, gays, etc., then his self-defense would have a leg to stand on. But he's stubbornly clingy to passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, for instance, stating his intent to make it the first bill he wants to sign into law, and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Last I checked, FOCA or DOMA won't do much to return jobs to PA. If economics is the ball we should be keeping our eyes on, and all those morality/values issues little more than red herrings to make us vote redstate, then why is Obama himself so "clingy" on these issues?
Either these social issues are epiphenomenal or they're more complicated than that. I think it's the latter. But if you're going to insist on the former, then everyone's got to be less clingy to them. If middle America has little reason to be so clingy to their pro-life positions, then Obama has little reason be so clingy to his pro-choice position. But you just can't decouple that and claim you're so in touch with reality.
UPDATE: Now he's firing back (or bailing water) with his old "politics of division and distraction" and "silly season" schtick. Who was it again that first raised the issue of God & guns in the middle of a discussion on economic policy? So I guess what he's saying is that the GOP & Hilary engage in the politics while Obama engages in the syntax of division and distraction.
Obama and his defenders still have not accounted for why he found it so necessary to broach the subject of God & guns when he was talking about the economic anxieties of middle America. It has been the Democratic party line to blame Rovianism for middle America's consistent pattern of voting against economic self-interest. Obama has yet to distance himself critically from this liberal Democratic script and its self-serving half-truths. He's still cutting along the same grain: You working class folk need to let go of your false Roveian consciousness and come out of the cave. If you needed proof that Obama's politics is at root Marxist, look no further.
It amazes me how smart the Dems continue to think they are, even as they bang their heads against the wall of white proles voting against their so-called economic interests. At best, then, I can grant to Obama that he wasn't intentionally driving the religion wedge into his talk; rather he was just clinging to the old liberal script, which is more interested in absolving liberals for their failure to appeal to the whole political person, not just homo economicus.