Friendly Fire on Capitol Hill – Karl Rove

July 22, 2010 15:56

The White House’s appearance of institutional and personal arrogance has left congressional Democrats divided and discontent going into the midterms. It weakens Democratic efforts not only this year, but well into the future. Having once fostered the impression that it’s every Democrat for himself, the president will find it hard to undo the damage when his own name is on the ballot.


Describing the White House last week, Congressional Democrats used words like “ineptness,” “neglected” and “disconcerting,” and phrases like “isn’t aggressive enough.” President Barack Obama has only himself to blame for these protests.

Well, maybe more than just himself. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs may have spoken the truth when he admitted Democrats could lose the House. He forgot that White House staffers are expected to be advocates, not prognosticators, when their party faces electoral defeat. Mr. Gibbs need not lie, but he could have been discreet.

While an angry response to Mr. Gibbs from Hill Democrats was expected, several factors produced an unusually fierce reaction. First, Democrats in Congress feel underappreciated for having cast tough votes. True, they wanted to pass health care, the stimulus, record deficits, and cap and trade. They thought these would be political winners. But now they feel exposed for supporting unpopular policies they consider poorly explained and badly defended by the administration.

Then there is the White House’s practice of outsourcing the drafting of major legislation to Democratic chairmen. This has made congressional Democrats more sensitive when Mr. Obama exerts himself, as he did with a threatened veto of a spending bill that trimmed his education priorities. One Democratic committee chairman (George Miller) affected by the veto threat complained, “there’s no strategy there,” while another (David Obey) fumed, “there’s a lot I don’t know about this administration.”


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