The In-Crowd Is Feeling Dissed in DC
David Berreby is the author of "Us and Them: The Science of Identity." He has written about human behavior and other science topics for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Smithsonian, The New Republic, Nature, Discover, Vogue and many other publications. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Paris, a Science Writing Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, a resident at Yaddo, and in 2006 was awarded the Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship for the first edition of "Us and Them." David can be found on Twitter at @davidberreby and reached by email at david [at] davidberreby [dot] com.
Maureen Dowd has all the steadiness and heft of a tin weathervane, but like a weathervane she can point which way the wind is blowing in Washington. And her column today suggests the self-flattering elite that runs American politics is starting to turn on President Obama.
It seems the forcing out of White House counsel Greg Craig has upset the people who see him at parties and meetings. Donors and staff people think the President isn't sufficiently grateful or loyal. They burned bridges to Important People for him. They gave his campaign money. Yet now, Dowd writes, "many donors and passionate supporters are let down by Obama’s detachment, puzzled at his failure to make them feel invested when he’s certain to come back to tap their well soon enough.'' Even more pompously, Elizabeth Drew, another DC bigfoot, said much the same the other day (in a piece Dowd quotes): "A critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man.'' Here's the tipoff about what this is really about: Drew also reports the "worries" of "several" that the Obama White House "was too tightly controlled and narrowly focused by the Chicago crowd; that it seemed from the outset to need an older, wiser head, someone with a bit more detachment." You know--someone more like us.
I know--it couldn't be better for the Obama 2012 campaign if David Plouffe had written it himself. Rich donors didn't get the flattery and influence they wanted. Well-connected lawyers weren't treated nice. Horrors!
But of course the President can't just campaign against the image of these Washington people; he needs their cooperation to run his government. His job is to be at once their enemy and their friend. Is Dowd's column a warning that he needs to recalibrate a little?