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White House Taking More Flak From Its Political Allies

Most Democrats seem to think that Plouffe’s new role as a political coordinator and facilitator could turn out to be a good move for the White House and for Democrats. But they wonder whether he really understands the difficult spot in which Democratic elected officials find themselves.

In his Jan. 24 Washington Post opinion piece, Plouffe urged his fellow Democrats to avoid “bed-wetting.” “Instead of fearing what may happen,” he wrote, “let’s prove that we have more than just the brains to govern — that we have the guts to govern.”

Plouffe’s comment was followed a few days later by a similar observation from the president, who told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer that “there is a tendency in Washington to believe that our job description, as elected officials, is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and help people.”

The implication, of course, is that Members of Congress shouldn’t care what their constituents think and that they should support the president’s agenda even if it hurts them at the polls.

But most Democrats around Capitol Hill who have been fighting in the political trenches around the country have a very different view of what has been going on.

“These [Democratic Members] have been taking a lot of tough votes. I haven’t seen a lot of bed-wetting going on,” responded one Democrat on the front lines.

“They want to get the heavy lifting done,” added another Democrat about the White House’s priorities. “They don’t care if it costs them the House, the Senate and governors.”

Of course, not everyone blames the president and his White House staff. Some think much of the blame should be placed on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“She is utterly tone-deaf. She is supposed to look out for her Members, not just make history. It’s reckless what she has done,” a Democratic campaign consultant told me.

Still, as Reggie Jackson used to say, we all know who the straw that stirs the drink is — it’s the president. It’s up to the White House to set the national agenda, and he ought to know when he’s an asset to his party and when he’s becoming a problem for them.

Yes, any president’s priority is enacting his agenda, not re-electing some Democratic Congressman from Alabama. But the White House won’t help its legislative agenda by its arrogance — by telling Members that the president can do no wrong and that it’s their duty to follow the Obama agenda.

That’s especially true if following his agenda means they will have to jump off a cliff this year while the president will have two more years, after November, to save himself politically.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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