Look at how Sullivan talks about Obama in summary mode, when he's assessing his overall legacy and long-term achievements. "His reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country's future as his original election in 2008," he writes, adding a bit later, "By hanging back a little, by 'leading from behind' in
Libya and elsewhere, Obama has made other countries actively seek
America's help and re-appreciate our role." We then hear about Obama's various accomplishments - many of them legitimately impressive - and what's wrong with his critics (who do get stuff wrong). "Obama was not elected, despite
liberal fantasies, to be a left-wing crusader. He was elected as a
pragmatic, unifying reformist who would be more responsible than Bush..." Sullivan writes. "This
is where the left is truly deluded. By misunderstanding Obama's
strategy and temperament and persistence, by grandstanding on one issue
after another, by projecting unrealistic fantasies onto a candidate who
never pledged a liberal revolution, they have failed to notice that from
the very beginning, Obama was playing a long game."
This passage shows the subordinate, "to be sure" approach Sullivan employs to frame Obama's failures:
Yes, Obama has waged a war based on
a reading of executive power that many civil libertarians, including
myself, oppose. And he has signed into law the indefinite detention of
U.S. citizens without trial (even as he pledged never to invoke this
tyrannical power himself). But he has done the most important thing of
all: excising the cancer of torture from military detention and military
justice. If he is not reelected, that cancer may well return. Indeed,
many on the right appear eager for it to return.
Perhaps most instructive is the essay's last paragraph:
If I sound biased, that's because I am. Biased toward the actual record, not the spin; biased toward a
president who has conducted himself with grace and calm under incredible
pressure, who has had to manage crises not seen since the Second World
War and the Depression, and who as yet has not had a single significant
scandal to his name.
That may be the core of our disagreement. I think extrajudicial killings, violating the War Powers Resolution, waging war without Congressional approval, violating the Geneva Conventions, whitewashing torture, warring on whistleblowers, and other actions are significant scandals. I do not think it sufficient to acknowledge them in a half paragraph, throw in a conjunction, and proceed as if you've adequately grappled in your essay with their significance.
In daily blogging, Sullivan often seems to agree, but then something happens. What? Maybe he can explain. I understand why he praises Obama for various achievements, and why he prefers Obama to Romney. I don't begrudge Sullivan arguing for Obama's reelection versus Romney.