Liberal bloggers keep eye on Obama

They wish he’d done more in his first eight months, but the liberal bloggers who helped propel Barack Obama to the White House are far from giving up on him.

Gathered in Pittsburgh for the annual Netroots Nation convention, they say they’re not disappointed. At least not too disappointed. Yet.

If politics is a meal being served up by the new president, they’re just looking for something to at least sweeten the bland, sometimes bitter fare they’ve grown to expect in Washington.

"He’s making some strides … but I think there needs to be more action," says Los Angeles-based blogger Lisa Derrick, who writes daily about politics, entertainment and pop culture on under the name LaFiga.

Rumblings on the left could spell trouble down the road for the president and for other Democrats. The group is threatening to run ads against moderate and conservative Democrats who don’t toe the line on Obama’s health care overhaul push.

The president himself is giving too much ground on health care, in the eyes of some of the bloggers here.

Some also think he ought to be getting out of Iraq faster. They want him to do away with the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.

"There’s a degree of accountability that’s necessary," said Derrick.

The White House hasn’t forgotten the bloggers Obama courted in the presidential campaign. His team has elevated the Internet presence of the White House to new heights. And senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett will be here in Pittsburgh to address the Netroots convention.

Denim everywhere, the convention’s informal atmosphere reflects the vast election support Obama garnered among youngish, tech-savvy people, many of whom became involved in the political process for the first time.

After actively helping usher Obama into the Oval Office — often employing Web-based organizing — many now refuse to relinquish their newly discovered role in democracy, determined to remain vigilant in ensuring the president makes good on campaign promises.

"I will wait and see. I will watch, but I don’t see myself at the point of completely disappointed," said Karen Johnson, a Portland, Ore., "lurker" on the Daily Kos Web site, meaning she comments and reads daily, but doesn’t blog.

Still, there is disappointment, many say, that Obama has failed to actively pursue what they call Bush-era crimes — from torture in the terror war to a blurring of lines at home between the Department of Justice and the White House.

And they view the health care debate with trepidation, saying Obama has not provided a clear plan or spoken out strongly enough against hardline critics who have turned some lawmakers’ town hall meetings into screaming matches. Now, they say, Obama is on the defensive, weakening his attempt to overhaul the system.

"They’re compromising too easy, too soon," said Pittsburgh-based blogger David DeAngelo, who writes on the Web site 2politicaljunkies.

"But on the other hand, it’s going so much better than a McCain presidency would have," DeAngelo added.
DeAngelo’s blogging partner, Maria Lupinacci, who initially supported Hillary Rodham Clinton, said if Obama does not provide a viable public health care option to compete against the private sector, he will lose the support of progressive liberals.

Despite the criticism, the blogging duo stops short of outright disappointment.

"I always saw him as a good, liberal Democrat. I never saw him as progressive, so he’s doing what I expected," Lupinacci said. "So, I’m not necessarily surprised, disappointed or happy."

Most bloggers are understanding of Obama’s position in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though many would prefer an immediate troop pullout, they acknowledge the obstacles, intricacies and complexities of both wars.
Here, the virtual world meets reality.

Some bloggers say it would be nice if the United States could just leave and hope for the best — but they also say it would be dangerous and counterproductive in the current environment.

Others back Obama completely in Afghanistan, supporting troop enhancements and empathizing with him for being left to clean up what they describe as the mess created by the Bush administration.

"They’re the ones that attacked us," Sean Wong, a Los Angeles-based blogger who writes under the name Bruin Kid on the Daily Kos Web site, says of Afghanistan.

Obama, Wong adds, has also improved U.S. standing internationally, reversing in just the first few months of his presidency much of the damage done by Bush administration policies.

Wong wishes Obama would have taken strong measures early on that he feels could have been done without the loss of significant political ground — such as repealing the military’s ban on enlisting gays — he echoes the general feel in the convention corridors.

"I’m still happy with what he’s done," he says, grinning.