Obama Neglects a Powerful Presidential Tool: Fear

Opponents' ability to criticize with impunity hinders the president's effectiveness
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2009 3:54 PM CDT
President Barack Obama pauses during a health insurance reform rally, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009, in Minneapolis.   (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama has been praised for bringing a more conciliatory tone to the presidency after the with-us-or-against-us swagger of George W. Bush. But Obama’s preference for gentle negotiation and compromise leaves him less able to use an effective presidential tool: fear, writes Ben Smith for Politico. Obama has failed to make the impression, among conservative Democrats and Republicans alike, that openly criticizing him will have any long-term consequences.

And since Obama seems perpetually open to re-engaging with his most vitriolic critics, they've felt free to cash in on the short-term gains: publicity and leverage in negotiations. Blue Dog Democrats in particular have raised their profile by distancing themselves from the administration’s policies. As crucial moments on health care and climate change legislation loom, Obama would do well to crack the whip and bring members of his own party in line.