From a Politico story about White House attempts to reassure restive House Democrats on Obamacare:
"I don't know how he f—-ed this up so badly," said one House Democrat who has been very supportive of Obama in the past.This was apparently said in a closed-door meeting between House Democrats and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. What the hell is it doing in the press? I'm seeing the Obamacare rollout being compared in The New York Times to George W. Bush's mismanagement of Katrina. Were there Republicans pissing and moaning to the press about that? Or a more apt comparison: How many Republicans were pissing and moaning to the press about Bush's ineptitude in Iraq when there was looting just after the fall of Baghdad, or during the insurgency, or when the Abu Ghraib revelations emerged, or when WMDs weren't found?
I said on Twitter this morning that Republicans don't attack one another this way. A lot of people told me that Republicans did a hell of a lot of sniping at one another during the shutdown. That's true. But they're much less inclined to do it to a president. I don't care how many Cruzites are attacking Mitch McConnell or undermining John Boehner -- Republicans know that that's not the same thing as undermining a president of their own party.
Even in the 2008 presidential race, with Iraq as the metaphor for everything wrong with Bush, no one apart from Ron Paul would break with Bush. That's how Republicans do it. Their presidents are their figureheads. They know they weaken themselves when they weaken the one person everyone in America regards as the embodiment of the party. (Sorry, political insiders -- if you spoke to some normal Americans once in a while, you'd know how many of them don't regard Boehner or McConnell as the GOP analogue to Obama, because they barely know Boehner and McConnell at all.)
White House self-abasement is not helping, either. Bush never did any mea culpas on Iraq, and he got through the '04 elections just fine. I've always assumed that the slow drip of bad Iraq news is what really destroyed the Bush presidency, but I find myself wondering if the decline in his popularity in the second term actually became irreversible when he acted contrite over Katrina.
In a sensible world, reluctance to admit error would be a liability, not an advantage, for a leader or a party. But Bill Clinton, alas, was right when he said that people would "rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right."