The left punditry is starting to come down on Obama, wondering whether, as Politico’s Roger Simon points out, Hillary Clinton was right:  You may campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose. 

In her former life as a presidential candidate, Clinton warned voters that Obama would let them down. She warned them that when the going got tough, he would fold up.

She said it was not just a matter of Obama lacking experience — that was the least of it — but that he lacked the strength, the toughness, the will to get the job done.

Obama seems at this juncture weak-kneed.  The right’s tried and true strategy of intimidation seems to be working, as it does whether they are in power or out.

Even Gene Robinson, the Washington Post columnist and one of Obama’s most ardent defenders, is beginning to wonder.

It’s true that politics is the art of the possible, but it’s also true that great leaders expand the scope of possibility. Barack Obama took office pledging to be a transformational president. The fate of a government-run public health insurance option will be an early test of his ability to end the way Washington’s big-money, special-interest politics suffocates true reform.

…What the president hasn’t done is the obvious: Tell Congress and the American public, clearly and forcefully, what has to be done and why. Take control of the debate. Consult less and insist more. Remind the Blue Dogs who’s president and who’s not.

Giving up on the public option might be expedient. But we didn’t elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one.

It’s fair to criticize the country’s most progressive voices.  While some leaders are vocal, the progressive base is silent.

So where are the liberal protesters? The initiative has passed to the know-nothing right for two big reasons.

One is Obama himself. This president recoils from confrontation, even with those who are out to destroy him. He has had ample opportunities to put himself on the side of popular economic grievances and to connect America’s economic troubles to the forces that Roosevelt called "economic royalists." But Obama, whose propensity for consensus is hard-wired, keeps passing up those opportunities.

…Despite the president’s history as a community organizer, his style as president is to tamp down popular protest, not rev it up. I know of several cases in which the White House requested allied progressive groups to cool it.

Cohen’s second reason for the lack of protests is that unions can’t organize the necessary protests.  I disagree.  When you’re unemployed, there’s plenty of time to go to meetings and rallies to demand the change Obama promised.

Simon thinks that the president will eventually push for a public option and make it happen, even if it takes reconciliation so it can’t be filibustered.

I’m skeptical, but have been surprised before when Obama has pushed hard when he gets near the goal line.

I can’t believe that he thinks ditching the public option and other concessions to the right will help him electorally.  If he caves on this, I won’t be working for him next election.  By then, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to work for a new progressive party.  It may not be practical, but if you want to get a party to move in your direction, build a movement that threatens to take votes from them.  Maybe then Democrats, including Mr. Congeniality, will take notice.