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Obama is Losing Control of the Democratic Party


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Washington Examiner:

Obama is losing control of the Democratic Party
Political Editor
July 16, 2010

Democrats are having a jolly good time beating up the White House.

You can see why. President Obama has caused the party to squander a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reclaim permanent majority status.

Of course, Democrats were cheering as they followed Obama off a cliff during the heady days of 2009, so they should share in the blame for the wasted moment. But they won't. They'll keep blaming Obama. Churlish, perhaps, but very human.

Obama, who could once do nothing wrong, now can't seem to do anything right in Democratic eyes.

Washington Democrats used to turn into jelly when Obama would fix his history-making gaze upon them. Now they look for chances to show the president isn't calling the shots.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs makes a pleasing punching bag. His remarks that the party might lose its huge House majority set Democratic fists flying. Smug and smarmy Gibbs later suggested he was just being a truth teller. Having seen so little of that trait in him before, it's hard to judge his claim.

More likely, Gibbs was continuing a White House strategy of downplaying the importance of the midterm elections. The message is: Yes, the president's party might lose seats, but so what? Obama will survive.

That's one thing if you are part of the Chicago gang at the White House, grooving on job security and self-esteem, but its quite another thing if your House seat or committee chairmanship is being offered up as cannon fodder.

Obama was only infallible when he brought Democrats victory. Now that he means defeat, members of Congress are not so quick to be awestruck.

Nancy Pelosi knows more about elections and government than Obama. She has been elected to the House 12 times and since being in Congress has pushed her way to the top with relentless determination.

She gets her way because she keeps her promises and delivers on her threats. No one in the House Democratic caucus would cross her lightly. Democrats now cross Obama with regularity -- a show of weakness that breeds only more disrespect.

Pelosi and her leadership team have carried more water for the Obama experiment than anyone thought possible. Using and risking her supermajority to push the Obama agenda even when it scared moderates or dismayed conscientious liberals, Pelosi got the job done on the entire Obama legislative wish list, even while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid waited, fretted and whined.

To have the White House writing off her speakership in blithe fashion on a Sunday chat show was too much.

Pelosi trashed Gibbs -- including the ultimate insult from a Washington power player: "I don't know him" -- at a caucus meeting. She then made sure that Obama got the message with a gusher of press leaks.

Pelosi got a quick invitation to the White House where Obama worked hard to show that he is very concerned about preserving the House majority and promised to campaign to keep it.

As it becomes clear that Obama can be of help in so few districts this year, House Democrats may have wished that he had stayed away.

Obama has belatedly called in Bill Clinton to hit the hustings for endangered Democrats. That shows weakness too. It's one thing for a young, inexperienced president to turn to a predecessor for advice. It's something different when he becomes part of your political team. Having Clinton around all the time only reminds Democrats of happier days and of their remorse at passing over Hillary in 2008.

Sen. Max Baucus is complaining about Obama's decision to appoint Dr. Donald Berwick, who has rhapsodized about socialized medicine and the need to need to limit individual choice in health care, as the head of Medicare. Obama blew off Baucus' finance committee with a recess appointment because of concerns that Berwick would get the administration in trouble. A year ago, Baucus might have held his tongue. Now he vents in public about the decision.

But the worst indignities to be heaped on Obama by Democrats will come on the campaign trail.

Out in Iowa, the Democratic Governors' Association spent money on mailers trashing Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad for being too much like Obama on health care.

That's just embarrassing, especially in a state Obama won by 9 points in 2008.
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