The inexplicable presidency

This article in the New York Times helped clarify some thoughts of mine about the Obama administration and the Democrats more broadly going into the election season.

The thing about Obama's handling of the Don't Ask Don't Tell case is that it actually makes a certain amount of sense. Dellinger argues thus:
The decision will strike some people as odd, since popular belief holds that the president, who has said he opposes the law, can make the policy go away by simply letting the lower court order stand. In fact, the administration is required to comply with the law and defend it in court, regardless of Mr. Obama’s personal views.
I don't think that quite gets to the hear of it, though. Obama has to recognize the danger of pushing DADT through in the courts. Abortion -- the last issue the Dems won in the courts, rather than the Senate -- has been deadly for Democrats for decades. It was the impetus behind the culture wars, and spurred a very important segment of the population to write off the Dems entirely (even the Tea Party hasn't been immune to the movement, despite its arguably libertarian roots).

Remember this article? Obama and his people talk at great length about their failure to "triangulate" -- to play politics. Winning DADT in the courts -- whatever Obama thinks of its ultimate constitutionality -- would be another Roe v. Wade for the Dems, and even more so when we have major deployments in two foreign countries.

The incredible thing is the Democrats' failure to explain. I think I have Obama's motives down about right, but he's been inexcusably weak in explaining himself. If everything is a teaching moment, why not this? Why not pick a fight over a major moral issue going into an election year to kick up your base's obviously decreased enthusiasm?

They can't possibly be worried that they'll do something else controversial. The Tea Party is out for blood and the town hall anger hasn't died down. And the Dems have essentially caved on the issue -- they're running away from the topic at every chance.

Obama can fret about triangulation all he wants -- if he can't give clear explanations that connect with the electorate, which he hasn't been doing so far, he won't win.