Obama Gets Behind Embattled Hill Allies

Posted May 23, 2009 at 9:02am

President Barack Obama in recent days has shown his willingness to use the trappings of office and his personal popularity to back powerful but beleaguered Democratic allies in Congress.

Obama’s White House has stood behind embattled Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), even as she accuses the CIA — which, of course, reports to Obama — of misleading Congress in 2002 about the use of waterboarding. Instead of taking on the task himself, Obama left it to CIA Director Leon Panetta to defend the agency, which Obama only weeks ago visited in an effort to boost employee morale.

At White House briefings, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs steers clear of the CIA issue.

At a White House event last Tuesday, Obama made a point of emerging from the Oval Office to waiting microphones with Pelosi directly at his side. He then took time out from an event that was supposed to be devoted to auto fuel efficiency to note how Pelosi is “cracking the whip— on Capitol Hill and “making Congress so productive.—

Obama used the majestic backdrop of a Rose Garden event Friday to offer what sounded a lot like a 15-second campaign spot for Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), even though Dodd is facing a Democratic primary opponent.

“I want to give a special shout-out to Chris Dodd, who has been a relentless fighter to get this [credit card bill] done,— Obama said in the Rose Garden as he prepared to sign the credit card reform bill.

“Chris wouldn’t give up until he got this legislation passed,— Obama said. “He’s spent an entire career fighting against special interests and fighting for ordinary people. And this is just the latest example.—

Dodd has been under fire for a variety of activities including controversy over a mortgage he obtained and his authorship of a provision in the economic stimulus package that allowed the payout of certain executive bonuses — a provision Dodd said he inserted at the request of the administration. Dodd already trails his expected GOP opponent, and his Democratic challenger, Merrick Alpert, has taken an Obama-style pledge not to take money from corporate political action committees.

On Tuesday, the president will continue in his role as good Democratic soldier, trekking west to raise money in Las Vegas for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Reid sits at or near the top of the GOP’s 2010 hit list.

The administration recently killed the proposed nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain, another boon to Reid. Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis visited Nevada in April to tour a job-training center and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar traveled to Nevada earlier this month to trumpet $300 million in stimulus funds allotted to the state.

Obama on Wednesday will cap what appears to be mostly a fundraising swing with an event in Los Angeles seeking donations for the Democratic National Committee, which lags its GOP counterpart in fundraising.

Obama has also stuck by recent party-switcher, Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. The president has vowed to back the hoary Washington veteran over any comers in a potential Democratic primary — no matter if their views are closer to Obama’s than the former Republican’s.