The Netroots Nation conference has traditionally been an occasion for mainstream media types to take a whack at the unreasonableness of the left. Michael Grunwald offered up, if not a classic, a fairly representative example of the genre on Swampland yesterday. Take this paragraph designed to dispatch left criticisms of Barack Obama with patronizing parentheticals:

It’s true that President Obama is not as liberal as some Daily Kos bloggers would like him to be. (Although he has blogged at Daily Kos.) He continued some of President Bush’s national security policies. (Although he did end the war in Iraq.) He ignored left-wing calls to nationalize troubled banks. (Which turned out to be the right call.) He’s pushed for middle-class tax cuts and public-employee wage freezes that his base dislikes, and he’s outsourced most of the Republican-bashing that his base craves. (Which may be why he’s way more popular than his party.)

Let’s take the parenthetical potshots one at a time:

It’s true that Obama has posted on Daily Kos – although the most prominent instance was when he took to Daily Kos to criticize progressives for being too hard on senators that backed John Roberts (more on that one here and here).

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Brian Beutler is asking why the National Republican Senate Committee would simultaneously run ads attacking and praising newly-minted Democrat Arlen Specter (to get re-elected, Specter would likely first have to overcome a challenge from the left in the Democratic primary, then beat Pat Toomey in the general election).

I think it’s a mistake to take the purpose of the NRSC’s “pro-Specter” robocall at face value. It makes more strategic sense as another anti-Specter, pro-Sestak call aimed at Democratic primary voters. Here’s what the ostensibly “pro-Specter” call actually says:

Yesterday, our Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak voted for President Obama’s budget, which contains spending increases for Democratic priorities like housing and environmental protection. But don’t Pennsylvanians deserve an independent voice in Congress? Our new democratic Senator Arlen Specter has been that voice. Last night, Senator Specter stood with conservative Senate Republicans in opposing the Obama budget. So call Joe Sestak at 610-892-8623. Tell Joe Sestak that Pennsylvanians want an independent voice, not another vote for the Obama agenda.

Look at it this way. Picture yourself as a liberal Democratic PA primary voter. Here are the words that stand out in this call associated with each candidate:

Joe Sestak: for President Obama’s budget, Democratic priorities, housing and environmental protection, Obama agenda

Arlen Specter: new Democratic senator, stood with conservative Senate Republicans, opposing the Obama budget

If I’m a Democratic primary voter (and I am), all of this will just make me more inclined towards Sestak, and less towards Specter. And the fact that the GOP is ostensibly vouching for Specter will just make me distrust him that much more. Which is exactly the point: Hurt Specter’s standing with Democratic base voters so that Joe Sestak emerges as the nominee (and more power to them).

If the NRSC were really trying to make Sestak less popular, wouldn’t they slap him with terms like “big government” or “energy tax” or “taxes for tuition benefits for illegal immigrants who come here to study abortion”? Do they really think “environmental protection” is a turn-off for Democratic primary voters and opposing Obama is a turn-on? They may be tone deaf, but not that tone deaf.

Specter narrowly defeats Toomey, who pledges his support for the incumbent in the general election. But don’t be surprised if Specter, who’s spent the past months announcing that he’s the real conservative and that getting Thomas on the Supreme Court should count for more than keeping Bork off of it, isn’t quite as lucky come November against Joe Hoeffel, who today kicks off his “A Future That Works” tour of Pennsylvania.

Over at the National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez essentially urges the million of us who marched yesterday to lighten up and stop being so rude to the President acting like the right to choose is important and threatened, while “Peter Smith” urges the faithful to do whatever is necessary to defeat Arlen Specter tomorrow – or else he might stop the Republicans from ending legalized abortion. Perhaps the two of them should have a conversation. Although, given that Peter Smith is apparently a pseudonym for an anonymous “close observer of the judicial-confirmation battles,” that might be difficult.