Left’s dis­con­tent with Obama shows at Net­roots par­ley

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

As Pres­i­dent Obama shifts in­creas­ingly into re-elec­tion mode, he is feel­ing per­sis­tent anger and dis­con­tent from the left as well as the right.

White House Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor Dan Pfeif­fer was heck­led and booed June 17 at the an­nual Net­roots Nation con­fer­ence in Min­nesota, a gather­ing of lib­eral ac­tivists from the on­line po­lit­i­cal com­mu­nity. When Mr. Pfeif­fer re­minded the au­di­ence that the pres­i­dent cham­pi­oned an equal-pay law, the mod­er­a­tor replied, “Frankly, we’re a lit­tle sick of hear­ing about that one.”

Less than 24 hours ear­lier, White House Chief of Staff Bill Da­ley heard heated com­plaints from busi­ness lead­ers about bur­den­some gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions at a meet­ing of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers in Wash­ing­ton. As Mr. Da­ley lis­tened to tales of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­ter­fer­ence in in­dus­try, he replied, “Some­times, you can’t de­fend the in­de­fen­si­ble.”

Mr. Da­ley’s com­ment prompted some back­track­ing by White House spokesman Jay Car­ney.

“You have to un­der­stand that he [Mr. Da­ley] went in there with no prior knowl­edge about the cases that were put be­fore him,” Mr. Car­ney told re­porters. “But ob­vi­ously the [ex­am­ples] that sounded bad, he thought, you know, sounded bad, and he said so.”

The pres­i­dent’s un­easy re­la­tion­ship with the busi­ness com­mu­nity has en­dured since the be­gin­ning of his term. But as Mr. Obama has trav­eled the county re­cently to speak at Demo­cratic fundrais­ers, the pres­i­dent also has ac­knowl­edged that lib­eral sup­port­ers may have grown dis­il­lu­sioned with his lead­er­ship.

”It’s not as cool to be an Obama sup­porter as it was in 2008, with the posters and all that stuff,” Mr. Obama told Democrats at an ex­clu­sive fundraiser in Mi­ami last week. “But the val­ues that mo­ti­vated me haven’t changed, and I hope they haven’t changed for you, ei­ther.”

To an­other group of donors in Mi­ami, Mr. Obama said, “There have been frus­tra­tions, and I’ve got some dings to show for it over the last 2 1/2 years. But I never said this was go­ing to be easy.”

While var­i­ous lib­eral groups are un­happy that Mr. Obama hasn’t done more for ho­mo­sex­ual rights or with­drawn troops from Afghanistan, the weak econ­omy is at the fore­front of the un­rest. A CNN/Opin­ion Re­search Corp. poll re­leased June 8 gave Mr. Obama a 48 per­cent job-ap­proval rat­ing, down 6 per­cent­age points from a sur­vey in late May.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials con­tend that crit­i­cism from the Demo­cratic base will be help­ful ul­ti­mately.

”When Glenn Beck and John Boehner and Mitt Rom­ney at­tack us, we ex­pect that,” Mr. Pfeif­fer told the Net­roots con­fer­ence. “And some­times when our friends at­tack us, we get frus­trated. It doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do, to get frus­trated. We want you to push us.”

Added Mr. Car­ney, “Some of the ac­com­plish­ments that the pres­i­dent can claim in the first 2 1/2 years meet with ap­proval in that [Net­roots con­fer­ence], and broadly be­yond that. The fact that peo­ple are press­ing for more to be done, whether it’s in busi­ness or in that [lib­eral] com­mu­nity, that’s the na­ture of our pub­lic life here. And it’s why the pres­i­dent says [. . . ] we have much work to do.”

But as the pres­i­dent has tried to en­er­gize sup­port­ers, im­plicit in his re­marks is the dan­ger that fewer peo­ple from his 2008 army of vol­un­teers will feel mo­ti­vated to work for him in 2012.

“You’re go­ing to have to knock on doors,” Mr. Obama told a rally in a more-than-half-empty con­cert hall in Mi­ami. “You’re go­ing to have to talk to all your friends and neigh­bors, and you’re go­ing to have to talk to the naysay­ers.”

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