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President Obama is making nobody happy

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By Ruth Marcus
Saturday, April 3, 2010

The perplexing irony of Barack Obama's presidency is that even as conservatives attack him as a crazed socialist, many on the left are frustrated with what they see as the president's accommodationist backtracking from campaign promises.

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"If there is an interest group completely happy with Obama, they've done a great job of keeping quiet about it," said Jim Kessler, vice president of the centrist group Third Way.

The difference between the two sides is that the left's complaints are more, as they liked to say in the days of George W. Bush, reality-based. Obama has done things -- or, more often, failed to do things -- that have understandably disappointed various constituencies.

The latest irritant is Obama's move to expand offshore drilling. "[T]he White House is in the process of antagonizing yet another key Democratic constituency," liberal blogger John Aravosis wrote after Obama's announcement.

And then there are:

-- Unions unhappy that their top legislative priority, the Employee Free Choice Act, is stalled and that they had to swallow an excise tax on insurance plans as part of health-care reform.

-- Gay rights advocates frustrated with the languid pace of progress on repealing "don't ask, don't tell" and incensed this week when the Obama Justice Department filed a brief defending the policy's constitutionality.

-- Women's groups upset about the abortion restrictions in the new health-care law.

-- Civil libertarians infuriated about the administration's legal positions in the war against terrorism, from indefinite detention to warrantless wiretapping to military commissions.

-- African American groups concerned that the administration has not done enough for minorities, particularly in the area of job creation.

-- Hispanic groups bemoaning the lack of action on immigration reform.

The president remains overwhelmingly popular with liberal Democrats. His problem, such as it is, is with what one party strategist called the "activist infrastructure."

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