Couples Therapy: Top White House Staffer, Liberal Bloggers Work Through Issues

By Eliza

Jun 17, 2011 12:50pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe (@jaffematt) reports:

Watching White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer interact with liberal activists today was a lot like watching a troubled couple try to work through the problems in their relationship, with little success. From gay rights to women’s rights to the war in Afghanistan, Pfeiffer danced around a slew of tough questions from moderator Kaili Joy Gray of the Daily Kos.

Pfeiffer today took the hot seat in front of a crowd of thousands of frustrated progressive activists and bloggers in Minneapolis, at the annual Netroots Nation meeting.

Perhaps the biggest question for President Obama going into the 2012 campaign is whether, after disappointing them on health care reform, Wall Street reform, wars abroad and other issues, he can excite and mobilize the liberal base that helped put him in office.

“I know that there’s levels of frustration with some of the decisions that have happened with this White House,” Pfeiffer acknowledged.

When Pfeiffer touted the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, Gray quipped, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? You’re still firing people for being gay.” Gray told him that progressives were “sick of hearing about” the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. When Pfeiffer said President Obama is “the most progressive president” on many of these issues that the country has ever had, Gray replied, “That’s a pretty low bar.” And she persistently asked why the Obama administration appeared more eager to compromise with Republicans than drive a hard line for the far left.

“Refusing to compromise means that nothing will get done and frankly, that’s not an option,” Pfeiffer said.

“Washington is a hard and frustrating place. We are doing it under tremendously challenging circumstances and he’s going to keep fighting for them. On some of the things that you care about and he cares about, I promise you he is as frustrated as you are.”

But as evidenced by former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’ outburst last August when he dismissed the “professional left” as a group that can act “crazy” and needs to be “drug-tested” at times, the frustration between progressives and the administration goes both ways.

“Sometimes when our friends attack us, we get frustrated,” Pfeiffer said. “That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”

With the 2012 elections looming next year, Pfeiffer vowed that the president will continue working on the key issues that progressives care about, but in turn progressives must stick by him and help him retain the White House.

“There are a lot of people in this room who care about the president, support the president, support a lot of the same things the president does, are very concerned about the direction that Republicans want to take this country, but are frustrated by the pace of change. And I promise you the president shares that frustration. If he could, if it was in his power to do that we could wake up tomorrow and we could have immigration reform done, climate change done, that we could have the employee free choice act, that we could do the things he talked about on the campaign and just wave a magic wand and have them done, he would absolutely do that in a second, but we have huge challenges.”

“You are a very important part of the coalition that got him here. You’ll be a very important part of the coalition that stops the Republicans from doing things like ending Medicare as we know it. And you’ll be an important part of the coalition that ensures that this president is re-elected. He knows that. I know that. And we want to make sure you guys know that,” Pfeiffer added.

The only alternative, Pfeiffer said, is a Republican presidential field that consists of “a series of flawed messengers offering a very flawed plan for America.”

Click HERE to read the interview with Dan Pfeiffer after the convention.

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