Gibbs Won't Take Back Criticism of 'Professional Left'

Gibbs said frustration to blame for comments against liberal critics.

August 11, 2010, 5:05 PM

Aug. 11, 2010 — -- White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused to take back his harsh words for what he called the "professional left," the liberal critics who think that President Barack Obama has sold out his ideals in order to make deals.

At today's White House press briefing, Gibbs opened his mouth to prove, he said, that his foot was not inside when he made controversial comments to The Hill newspaper on Tuesday.

"I have both my feet firmly planted on the floor and nothing in my mouth, to speak of," Gibbs said.

Gibbs is in hot water after "The Hill" newspaper published comments scolding liberal critics by saying, "I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested."

Gibbs added that liberal critics "will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we've eliminated the Pentagon. That's not a reality."

In the press briefing today, Gibbs said Tuesday's comments were "born out of frustration."

The press secretary blamed his addiction to cable TV for losing his cool. Many on the left have voiced frustration for President Obama on seemingly every issue from health care reform to the war in Afghanistan.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean called the health care reform bill an "insurance company's dream."

The administration has taken flak for not being decisive on gay rights.

"That's the president's position, clear as mud," television host Rachel Maddow has said.

Polls show that President Obama still enjoys the overwhelming support of liberals, but on ABC News' "Top Line" today, liberal blogger Jane Hamsher said that the president may be taking the left for granted.

"He just sort of assumed that these people would stick with him, but he's having trouble across the board by not delivering for his constituents," Hamsher said.

Will Progressive Voters Turn Out in November?

Dissent among prominent Democrats has stretched to blocks of progressive voters who helped get President Obama elected.

Adam Green from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said that Gibbs's statements reflect a bigger problem in the White House.

"The real problem is not Robert Gibbs," Green said. "The White House needs to understand that millions of progressives who voted for them and volunteered for them are not the enemy."

Green said that the Obama administration's failure to connect with progressive voters and Gibbs's harsh comments could impact Democratic turnout in November.

"Democratic turnout in 2010, particularly among former Obama voters, first-time voters, will largely be determined by how enthusiastic people feel about this president," Green said. "And what people want is a president who is willing to truly fight against entrenched corporate interests, special interests and really go to battle on behalf of the little guy."

Even as the frustration mounts within the walls of the White House, the president and his team continue to try to bridge the divide. Last month, President Obama made a video appearance before Netroots Nation, whose members are progressives.

"What I'm asking you is to keep making your voices heard to keep holding me accountable," Obama told the group.

When ABC News asked Gibbs about whether Democratic voters will stay home in November, Gibbs didn't seem too worried.

"I don't think they will, because I think what's at stake in November is too important to do that," Gibbs said.