Top White House Official Acknowledges “Tough Exchange” With Progressives, But Wants Them To “Keep Pushing”

By Eliza

Jun 17, 2011 12:59pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe (@jaffematt) reports:

After taking the hot seat at the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis for a tense hour-long Q&A today, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer acknowledged that the conversation in front of a frustrated progressive audience had been “tough,” but said that’s how it should be.

“I knew this would be a tough exchange. It’s the kind of exchange we should have,” Pfeiffer told ABC News in an interview afterwards. “These are – in attendance today are a lot of core supporters who care passionately about the president, care passionately about the things that he cares about, and are frustrated by the pace of change. And I came here today expecting a conversation like that. As I said in the opening, I wanted to have an open, honest conversation about the decisions we’ve made, the things we’ve tried to do, the things we haven’t been able to do. I think it was a good conversation. It wasn’t an easy conversation. It shouldn’t be an easy conversation.”

“What’s important to understand is in a lot of the issues that people in this room are frustrated about, the president is frustrated. He would like to get them done too,” Pfeiffer continued. “There are things that are preventing it from happening. It could be obstruction from Congress. It could be just the effect the economy is having. All those things – he would like to do them, too. It’s why he’s running for re-election. It’s why he’s going to continue to push them. The hope is to continue a conversation with the people in this room and engage them in the battles we’re going to have going forward." 

“Just because someone like myself someone from Washington says it’s not possible today doesn’t mean they should all pack up their stuff and go home,” he added. “They should keep pushing and that’s the right thing to do.”

“The campaign will continue to build a grass-roots campaign like they did before. When President Obama is standing across the stage from a Republican who wants to do things like end Medicare, repeal health care reform, to repeal Wall Street reform, things like that, the choice will be very clear. And we want to work with the people in this room and other activists to make sure they know what’s at stake in this election."

So what was the view from the other side today?

Darcy Burner, executive director of Progressive, said the White House needs to do “a lot more” going forward.

“I think it’s fairly clear that progressives want more from the White House than they’ve been getting,” she said. “They view their job to do what the president has told them to do, which is to make him do the right thing. They’re going to continue to push until we get the kind of progressive policies they believe in.”

“I think they need to do a lot more and our job is to push them to do a lot more. That’s our role,” she noted. 

Arshad Hasan, executive director of Democracy for America, stated that he “really respected” the fact that Pfeiffer appeared at the conference, but emphasized that the demands and complaints of progressives were “perfectly legitimate.”

“I think the president’s hand is stronger when he has strong, bold progressive ideas and legislation and right now I think that we still have to be asking for that,” Hasan said.

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