My sources tell me that, when it comes to President Obama, Ron Fournier’s a classic concern troll. (More)
As BPI’s roving reporter, I meet people and squirrels. Some of those people know other squirrels. Some of those squirrels know other people. I know people who know squirrels who know people who’ve seen Kevin Bacon movies.
Some of those people, and a few of the squirrels, are insiders. Power players. Connected. People who were name-checked in This Town, or at least were upset about being left out. People who talk to people who read about people who get mentioned by Mike Allen at Politico.
So when I read this by the National Journal’s Ron Fournier …
I share this email to make the broader point and to offer a disclosure: In the 18 months since I began writing columns focused on the presidency, virtually every post critical of Obama has originated from conversations with Democrats. Members of Congress, consultants, pollsters, lobbyists, and executives at think tanks, these Democrats are my Obama-whispers. They respect and admire Obama but believe that his presidency has been damaged by his shortcomings as a leader; his inattention to details of governing; his disengagement from the political process and from the public; his unwillingness to learn on the job; and his failure to surround himself with top-shelf advisers who are willing to challenge their boss as well as their own preconceived notions.
… my sensitive nose – squirrels can smell nuts buried under a foot of snow – picked up the distinctive odor of a concern troll:
One common tactic of concern trolls is the “a plague on both your houses” approach, where the concern troll tries to convince people that both sides of the ideological divide are just as bad as each other, and so no one can think themselves “correct” but must engage in endless hedging and caveats. This preys on a willingness to debate critics and allow dissent; everyone wastes time discussing the matter and bending over backwards, so as not to appear intolerant of disagreement, all to the great amusement of the troll.
For example, if Republicans won’t negotiate over the budget, blame President Obama’s “failure to lead.” Insist there must be Republicans who would make a deal, if only the president would negotiate in good faith. Because you know people who know people and those people say it could happen.
Of course those people have to stay anonymous, as Fournier explains:
Few frustrated Democrats are willing to complain openly. I grant them anonymity, which creates a problem: Readers, for good reason, don’t trust anonymous quotes. One way to avoid deluging readers with unnamed Democrats is for me to digest their complaints along with other reporting to shape my columns and tweets.
The Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore sums up Fournier’s claimed list of insiders nicely:
This last “whisper” is, of course, very funny, since the unstated word after “top-shelf advisers” is “like me.” Fournier is clearly talking to people who aren’t running the country, and think they should be.
In other words, Fournier is saying there are more anonymous sources he could cite, but instead just paraphrases. Clearly, many Democrats in Fournier’s circle thinks Obama is a spent force, a political non-entity, a lame duck, Bush-circa-2008 all over again. That’s undoubtedly why not one of them will go on the record. After all, that nearly-invisible, impotent POTUS might smite them.
As Kilgore notes, the most recent Gallup poll found that 80% of registered Democrats approve of President Obama’s performance on the job. Fourner’s people are in the other 20%. But they’re insiders. Think tankers and lobbyists and pollsters. People who were name-checked in This Town, or upset that they were left out. People Who Matter.
So how many emails does Fournier get from the other 80% of Democrats, ones who think President Obama is doing a good job, and why does he never “digest” those in his columns or tweets?
My people who know squirrels who know people who’ve seen Kevin Bacon movies say it’s because those emails aren’t Concern Troll Chow, so Fournier ignores them. You’ll have to take my word on that.
Good day and good nuts.