The email hit my in-box at 9:41 p.m. last Wednesday. From one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, a close adviser to the White House, the missive amounted to an electronic eye roll. “Even I have had enough.”
Another Democrat had quit on President Obama.
The tipping point for this person was the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl case—not the soldier-for-Taliban swap itself as much as how the White House mishandled its obligation to communicate effectively and honestly to Congress and the public. More than that, Obama’s team had failed once again to acknowledge its mistakes, preferring to cast blame and seek cover behind talking points.
“DC is hard, and depressing,” the Democrat wrote. “I still believe good comes from government (e.g. 8 million in ACA). But that Politico story is a cautionary one: good reminder that you can’t go so in the bunker [and] no longer identify legitimate criticism.” That day, Politico had posted a story channeling the White House communications team’s response to the Bergdahl backlash.
White House aides were aware Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been tagged a deserter, and that they would be grilled over not keeping Congress in the loop. But they figured people would be most outraged over the national security implications.
The White House has been surprised by how much attention has remained on the questions about Bergdahl, from the circumstances of his disappearance to the wild beard his father grew while he was being held that’s even led to Bergdahl’s hometown canceling a celebration. All this, Obama aides say, is in their minds a proxy for the hatred toward the president.
The new approach: Frame the criticism as another example of Republicans complaining about something just because Obama was the one to do it.
To this senior Democrat, the Politico story showed the White House to be both tone-deaf and arrogant, two vices that are undermining what could have been a great presidency.
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