Friends, in Need: Obama Faces Backlash on Jobs, Economy

By Britt

Nov 20, 2009 9:07am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Maybe health care is the easy part. Not quite easy, fine. But getting 60 votes on Saturday is, at the moment, among the least of the worries for an administration that’s left on the lookout for its friends. President Obama is back home now — and feeling kind of lonely. On Afghanistan, on the economy, on the stimulus, on Fort Hood, on Gitmo, and maybe even on health care, the administration doesn’t have the allies it needs in the numbers it needs. Congress is venting. Lawmakers are speaking up on a front the public has long expressed worry about — a disconnect between public assurances and private sentiments on whether things are getting better. Alarm bells are going off over the administration’s handling of the economy — as support for the administration’s positions crumbles in worrisome directions. It all has much to do with trust: Saying your policies are working is easier when the numbers back you up. Somewhere between double-digit unemployment and those million “saved or created” jobs that no one can really technically locate, that’s a tough one. “Growing discontent over the economy and frustration with efforts to speed its recovery boiled over Thursday on Capitol Hill in a wave of criticism and outright anger directed at the Obama administration,” Brady Dennis, Zachary A. Goldfarb and Neil Irwin report in The Washington Post. “Episodes in both houses of Congress exposed the raw nerves of lawmakers flooded with stories of unemployment and economic hardship back home. They also underscored the stiff headwinds that the administration faces as it pushes to enact sweeping changes to the financial regulatory system while also trying to create jobs for ordinary Americans.” “Political frustration over the rescue of Wall Street and high unemployment erupted in the House Thursday,” Sudeep Reddy and Damian Paletta write in The Wall Street Journal. Fitting it together — with the public driving the Congress: “The most troubling problem for the Democrats may be that government interventions into the economy — meaning the bailout and the stimulus — are increasingly perceived as having failed, which in turn increases skepticism about government intervention overall, in health care and other areas,” Nate Silver writes at It’s all complicated by the fact that, in what would typically be the end-of-year lull, there’s a lot of turkey on the table. “A president’s job is always busy. But Obama’s plate is piled so high that Thanksgiving seems to have come early at the White House,” the AP’s Chuck Babington writes. Calls for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s head (so eight months ago, right?): “Echoing comments made by a Democratic lawmaker Wednesday night, two Republican members of the Joint Economic Committee today called for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to resign,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, to Geithner: “For the sake of our jobs, will you step down from your post?” Replied Geithner: “I agree with almost nothing in what you said, and I think that almost nothing in what you said represents a fair and accurate perception of where this economy is today.” He continued: “You gave this president an economy falling off the cliff….” ABC’s Bianna Golodryga, on “Good Morning America” Friday: “It was anything but your typical Capitol Hill hearing.” “The administration is 100 percent behind Tim Geithner,” George Stephanopoulos reported on “GMA.” “What you’re seeing from those members of Congress right there — they’re trying to get ahead of the stampede.” Rallying, from the left: “Rep. Peter DeFazio, one of the most outspoken Democratic critics of the White House economic team, said he plans to press the 27-member Congressional Populist Caucus to back his call for their ouster,” Roll Call’s Tory Newmyer reports. Said DeFazio, D-Ore., of his press to oust Geithner and Larry Summers: “I see it as helping the president get rid of the losers on his staff that America doesn’t need.” Paul Krugman, on the AIG bailout: “By making what was in effect a multibillion-dollar gift to Wall Street, policy makers undermined their own credibility — and put the broader economy at risk. … And the bitter paradox is that this play-it-safe approach has ended up undermining prospects for economic recovery.” Krugman continues: “Government officials, perhaps influenced by spending too much time with bankers, forgot that if you want to govern effectively you have retain the trust of the people. And by treating the financial industry — which got us into this mess in the first place — with kid gloves, they have squandered that trust.” Why this firestorm will be tough to put out: “It is a call [for Geithner to resign] he is likely to hear again and again as next year’s election campaign heats up,” Bloomberg’s Robert Schmidt and Lorraine Woellert report. “While Democrats have generally defended Geithner’s handling of the economy and the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, some are beginning to blame President Barack Obama’s administration for not doing enough to help Main Street voters.” For the defense, David Brooks: “The evidence of the past eight months suggests that Geithner was mostly right and his critics were mostly wrong.” When Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., team up and win a vote in committee — something’s up: “In an unprecedented defeat for the Federal Reserve, an amendment to audit the multi-trillion dollar institution was approved by the House Finance Committee with an overwhelming and bipartisan 43-26 vote on Thursday afternoon despite harried last-minute lobbying from top Fed officials and the surprise opposition of Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who had previously been a supporter,” Ryan Grim reports for Huffington Post. “The vote was the latest blow to the central bank, which has been become a lightning rod for politicians responding to popular anger that Wall Street was bailed out while the public wasn’t,” per The Wall Street Journal. Hill scrutiny for “The government watchdog overseeing economic stimulus spending said Thursday that, in its rush to take credit for saving hundreds of thousands of jobs, the Obama administration was overly confident in its job-counting and did not acknowledge significant errors in the figures,” the AP’s Matt Apuzzo writes. “After conceding the fact that the $18 million government Web site tracking stimulus funds doesn’t accurately track U.S. jobs data, the chairman of the Obama administration’s Recovery Board told Congress today that he wasn’t surprised by the mistakes found on the Web site listing non-existent congressional districts,” ABC’s Elizabeth Gorman reports. Said Earl Devaney: “In reality this data should serve in the long run as evidence of what transparency can achieve.” “The government watchdog in charge of tracking stimulus dollars said he can’t be sure how many jobs the $787 billion program has created, admitting it ‘could be above or below’ the 640,000 jobs the administration touts,” Kara Rowland reports in the Washington Times. “Republicans said false numbers amount to ‘propaganda’ and that the uncertainty should cool Democrats’ talk of passing a second stimulus bill.” Another economic issue that needs an administration answer — Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., in a CNN op-ed: “The path of least resistance that we have trod for so long is the path to national weakness. If you have the same people and the same process, you are going to get the same results. For this reason, I will vote ‘no’ on raising the debt ceiling unless Congress adopts a credible process to balance our books and eliminate the red ink.” Recalibrating some messaging — and some policy-making: “For the first time, Democrats are talking seriously about going back and rechanneling portions of their $787 billion stimulus bill to help jump-start job-creation initiatives — such as a long-delayed highway bill,” David Rogers reports for Politico. As for health care — the push for 60 is looking mighty expensive. ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports that a two-page section applies to exactly one state — Louisiana — where Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is a critical vote. “How much does it cost?  According to the Congressional Budget Office: $100 million.” Your shepherd: “Now it is Senator Harry Reid’s health care bill,” Carl Hulse reports in The New York Times. “Should Mr. Reid shepherd the measure successfully through the Senate and meld it with the House version into final legislation that President Obama can sign, it would be the biggest accomplishment of his career. Should the bill fall victim to the complex political, procedural and substantive fights raging around health care, it would be a stinging defeat for him, his president and his party — all while he faces a tough re-election fight at home.” The final press, in the run-up to the vote at 8 pm ET Saturday: “A platoon of top strategists — including pollsters Mark Mellman and Geoff Garin, incoming White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina — met with Democratic Senators Thursday afternoon to impress upon those who might be wavering that everyone’s political fate is now joined with the success of President Obama’s top domestic priority,” Time’s Karen Tumulty reports. “The White House team also pledged whatever support the Senators might want, including visits to their states by Vice President Biden and making Administration officials available for interviews with home-state media.” Zero Republicans will vote for the motion to proceed: “As it stands, [Sen. Olympia] Snowe said she is not happy with Reid’s package, and has informed him that he will not have her vote Saturday,” write Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray of The Washington Post. Still to get worked out — the abortion debate: “The White House is on a collision course with Catholic bishops in an intractable dispute over abortion that could blow up the fragile political coalition behind President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul,” Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar writes for the AP. Plus, immigration: “In my view, if [undocumented immigrants] use their own money to purchase insurance without any taxpayer subsidy, it would make a lot of sense,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said Thursday on’s “Top Line.” Why the ban? “A forensic study would show it all leads back to Rahm Emanuel and the White House,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., tells Politico’s Jonathan Allen. Allen writes: “Whether or not the CHC members are pointing their frustration in the right direction, the perception that Emanuel is pushing policies that they see as harmful to their communities for the political advantage of the president or moderate Democrats in Congress could cause the White House problems with the CHC in future negotiations.” On the heels of the mammogram recommendations: “New guidelines for cervical cancer screening say women should delay their first Pap test until age 21, and be screened less often than recommended in the past,” Denise Grady of The New York Times reports.
And what about eliminating wasteful procedures? “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did a marvelous job this week of undermining the move toward evidence-based medicine with her hasty and cowardly disavowal of a recommendation from her department’s own task force that women under 50 are probably better off not getting routine annual mammograms,” Steven Pearlstein writes in his Washington Post column. Thank goodness this has nothing to do with the CBO scoring of health care reform: “The House overwhelmingly approved a physician repayment bill to permanently fix the way doctors who cover Medicare patients are reimbursed,” The Hill’s Molly K. Hooper reports. “Despite a vow to offset any new spending, the Democratic measure would cost $210 billion over 10 years but does not include a ‘pay-for’ in the bill.”  New ad from — airing in Maine and Arkansas. “Tell Congress: No triggers. Real health care reform means a strong public option — now.” Checking in on that Fort Hood hearing: “For those waiting for the new White House to make good on its vow to bring transparency to the executive branch, it was another disappointing brush with Obama opacity,” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank writes. Tying up a loose end from the Asia trip — ABC’s Jake Tapper and Clarissa Ward: “First the Chinese government refused to broadcast live on state-run television President Obama’s town hall meeting with university students in Shanghai. Now some US media are saying the government is blocking access to an interview President Obama did in Beijing with the relatively progressive newspaper Southern Weekly, which in the past has pushed the limits of Chinese censors’ delicate sensibilities with actual journalism. But the truth may be more complicated than that.” More woes for Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. ABC’s Cynthia McFadden sat down with Doug Hampton, in an interview that will air Monday on “Nightline.” Hampton says the $96,000 he got from Ensign’s family was a severance package, not a gift — which would make it a violation of campaign-finance laws: “Crystal clear,” Hampton said. “I took notes. I’ve shared those notes. They’re well documented. They were clearly what he deemed as severance.” Plus, Hampton tells McFadden that Ensign was knowingly help him break the “revolving door” regulations by setting him up in a lobbying practice after he left his Senate employ: “John Ensign was perfectly aware that it was going down exactly how he wanted it to go,” says Hampton. McFadden: “So there is no doubt in your mind that John Ensign understood that ethics laws were being broken.” Hampton: “There is no doubt.” As for Democrats with ethics woes — with leadership push to oust Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., and Defense Appropriations Chairman Jack Murtha, D-Pa.? “What many House Democrats would clearly prefer is for Murtha and Rangel to announce that they won’t seek re-election, thus avoiding the bloodletting that trying to oust them would cause,” Charlie Cook writes for National Journal. “So the question is whether the Democratic leadership feels it should risk taking no action against Rangel and Murtha; should try to take away their gavels; or should give them a hearty thank-you for their long years of service — a thank-you accompanied by a big push toward retirement. If Rangel and Murtha signal that they are headed for the exit, they might make themselves less appetizing targets for ambitious prosecutors seeking to nail a politician’s scalp to the door.” At the Republican Governors Association meeting — a spring in some gubernatorial steps: “Thrilled with twin victories this month, Republican governors are looking to lead a party-wide resurgence in 2010 and shape the GOP for years to come,” the AP’s Liz Sidoti reports. “Republicans boast of a strong crop of gubernatorial candidates who could be future party leaders, $25 million in the bank a year before the elections and a difficult environment for Democrats, particularly in financially ailing swing-voting states like Ohio and Iowa.” The roll call from this Palin-free zone: “On hand were possible presidential candidates like Barbour and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota as well as Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mitch Daniels of Indiana. Govs.-elect Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey attended, as did the GOP’s top recruits for 2010 races, including John Kasich, a former congressman, in Ohio and Attorney General Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania.” Social issues, anyone? “What was most striking about the Republican governors was not simply their sense of optimism — a sentiment that would draw no Democratic quarrel these days — but exactly how they saw their road back to power and unity,” The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney reports. “The talk here was of the health care plan being debated in Congress, increased spending under President Obama, the climbing deficit and concern among Americans about jobs and the education of their children.” Have they been near the Hill lately? “Republican governors Thursday urged GOP candidates competing in 2010 elections to not harshly attack President Barack Obama, citing polls that show his personal popularity remaining strong despite unease over his policies,” Peter Wallsten reports in The Wall Street Journal.  Rudy’s ruminations: “Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has decided not to run for governor next year after months of considering a candidacy, according to people who have been told of the decision,” Danny Hakim writes in The New York Times. “Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who many Republicans have been pushing to run for governor in 2010, is instead leaning more toward a run for U.S. Senate, according to two party advisers,” the AP’s Michael Gormley reports. Or: “Rudy Giuliani doesn’t have to run for governor, or senator, either, because he’s already got a bigger voice and bank account than most elected leaders,” the New York Daily News’ David Saltonstall reports. “That’s what some of Giuliani’s closest aides were whispering Thursday as speculation spiked that the former mayor had decided against a run for governor but was still mulling a U.S. Senate bid against Kirsten Gillibrand.”
In Texas — on the air: “I’m going to do everything I can to stop the government takeover of healthcare. And it’s why I’m staying in the Senate through the primary, at risk to my political future,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says in a new TV ad. “I cannot walk away while this is pending in Congress.” From the Palin chronicles: “Fort Bragg on Thursday changed its mind about banning the media from Sarah Palin’s public book signing Monday. The change was announced late Thursday after protests by The Fayetteville Observer and The Associated Press,” Henry Cuningham reports in the Fayetteville Observer. 
The Kicker: “In a way they are not unequivocally bad.” — Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, of the errors found at “I don’t know of anything that disqualifies her.” — Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Miss., on the spot and never quite answer Chris Matthews’ question about whether Sarah Palin is qualified to be president.
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