February 3rd, 2010
04:31 PM ET
13 years ago

Vulnerable Dems take advantage of session with Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/03/art.obama.demsmeeting.gi.jpg caption="President Obama met Wednesday with Senate Democrats."]Washington (CNN) - Walking into the room, the Senate Democrats issues conference looked at first glance like any other business meeting: Men and women in suits, sitting at long tables covered in black table cloths - each with a bottle of water and a pen and notepad in front of them.

But once the session with President Obama got going, it was clear these were not your average conference-goers. These were a group of politicians who knew the moment, and how to use the live television cameras to seize it.

It was no accident that six out of the eight Democrats who Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on to ask the president a question are in a tough re-election battle this year. It was even less of an accident that those Democratic Senators used their time live on CNN to show frustrated voters that they're not afraid to stand up to the president.

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania, fighting for his political life in Pennsylvania, kicked the session off with a question about the "trade imbalance" with China and how that hurts union workers. He even asked the president to revoke America's trade agreements with China.

"Arlen, I would not be in favor of revoking the trade relationships that we've established with China," the president responded dryly.

Next up was Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colorado, battling to keep the seat he was appointed to last year when the president named Ken Salazar his Interior Secretary. Bennett didn't so much ask a question, but plead with the president.

"This place looks broken to the American people," said Bennett. "What are we going to do differently? What are you going to do differently?"

Then, Sen. Blanche Lincoln's pointed remarks got even more personal.

The embattled Democrat from Arkansas rose and told the president of a constituent - a "good Democrat" - who wondered how the president and his top aides can get them out of this economic mess when "there's no one in your administration that understands what it means to go to work on Monday and have to make a payroll on Friday."

And though the president used his remarks to hit Republicans for offering a "fist" when Democrats offer a hand, Lincoln wanted to know if the president was going to stand up to members of his own party who "want extremes."

"Blanche is exactly right- we've got to be non-ideological about our approach to these things," Obama said as part of a lengthy response.

Reid made a point of calling on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, now battling a possible primary challenge from Harold Ford, Jr. She kept her question focused squarely at folks back home, asking about health care for September 11 responders.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, is also up for re-election. She got a question too, asking Obama what he's going to do to help small businesses.

For a while, it looked like just about the only potentially vulnerable Democrat in the room who didn't get to stand up for the cameras was Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, who found out in the morning that former Sen. Dan Coats will now run against him.

But alas, the president agreed to stay for a few more questions, and Bayh got the final one.

The deficit hawk used his time to a bit of a speech on fiscal discipline, and finished off by asking: "Why should the Democratic party be trusted? And are we willing to make some of the tough decisions to actually head this county in a better direction?"

"I'll tell you why the Democratic party should be trusted," Obama responded. "Because the last time this budget was balanced, it was under a Democratic President who made some very tough decisions."

If it's more transparency is what voters want, they got it with this event. When the session was over, it was clear that Democrats had given their vulnerable colleagues a chance to show voters that they're trying.

Lincoln even released a statement from her campaign afterwards, telling voters who missed it that she had "urged President Barack Obama to push back on ideological extremes at both ends of the political spectrum."

Filed under: President Obama • Senate Democrats
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Reagan raised taxes and tripled the debt.

    hahaha poor little TCM

    February 3, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  2. Mike in MN

    Obama was right, the last President who saw a balanced budget was a Democrat. It was Bill Clinton who had the sense to move to the right after voters rejected his agenda and voted Republicans into power in the House and Senate. Under a Democrat President and a Republican control House and Senate, the budeget was balanced.
    But Obama is no Bill Clinton, he does not have the sense to move to the right. His pretense at deficit taking measures are all a joke. Bayh is 100% correct to ask why Democrats should be trusted on the budget and spending and the deficit. Obama's answer will bring about that trust because when it comes to the budget and spending and the political sense to know to move to the right where the people are, Obama is no Bill Clinton. Obama will fail and us with him.

    February 3, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  3. Jim Spangler

    Well that was productive coming from the Democrats, the party of


    February 3, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  4. Mark

    I can't believe people are still saying the republicans are blocking everything, obamy had total control in congress for a year, and what was done other than spend money we don't have?

    Now he wants to pull NASA scientists from space exploration and have them research global warming. What an idiot, seems like he would know about all the reports that were faked.

    I guess he is busy today, the UAW is in Washington to protest Toyota's closing of the only assembly plant they have where union workers were employed. Toyota wants to move production to their non union plants. Toyota fires the union so let's force them into a recall and tell folks not to drive their cars.......nothing but payback Chicago style.


    February 3, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  5. annie against biased news

    Do you think some demon-crats make wake-up and see obama cares no more for them then the rest of us whom he hates?

    February 3, 2010 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  6. Orange Curtain, CA

    Yeah Lincoln, Bayh, Landrieu, Nelson deserve to lose. Either stand-up with a spine or sell-out and crawl into the corner and lose your seat you traitors.

    February 3, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  7. Ken

    The last time the budget was balanced the tough decision that was made by President Clinton was to compromise with the Republican controlled Congress and reduce his spending goals, while profiting from the end of the cold war, driven by Reagan. During the Clinton years intelligence and defense were gutted. Bush had no choice but to rebuild our gutted defense and intelligence capabilities, and to do that, he had to agree to Democratic pork. Obama, having a majority in both houses of Congress, believed he could pass any garbage bills he wanted to "change" this nation into a third world dictatorship. Thankfully, the system is working, the voters are waking up, and the disaster currently in power has a short political future to look forward to.

    February 3, 2010 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  8. Obama/Biden

    Washington is divided by partisan politics including a racial politic. President Obama agenda cannot clear republican congress just because the president defeated John McCain that is why McCain as a pay back oppose everything the president propose. They do not want barack to succeed. It is like the 60's all over again. Some people do not the president and his agendas just because the president is African American and this factor will cause the president to serve only on term. It is not because he is doing bad, Washington racism and partisan is the fact. We already starting to see that example Massachussetts senate eletion.

    February 3, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  9. ib

    Obama said people need to tighten their belts in rough times. When is this president going to tighten his and stop flying all the world and the US in AF1 everyweek. Oh I forgot he's not spending his money he's spending OUR MONEY. Hyprocrite.

    February 3, 2010 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  10. m smith

    the major problem is that most republicans are not to smart so they don't understand the president when he speaks? Just look at the tea baggers and the birthers.They still don't realize that we had at one time a balanced budget and how we got it. We have a man in office that tackles the tough questions and his answers make sense. This is something they have never dealt with before.If you can't get a point across with out insults they don't think you are tough enough . If they return to power we will never have a balanced budget.

    February 3, 2010 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  11. Al, CA

    Kick blue dogs from democratic party.

    And all who voted for Iraq invasion in 2002 should be kicked out of offices (this includes almost all GOP senators, as well as – yes – Clinton, Kerry and Biden.

    February 3, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  12. worriedmom

    When will you Libs figure out you are in the minority with your ideals. You are what is causing this President poll numbers to go down.

    You thought you could get what you want but it destroyed you to find out that there are a lot of people "more intelligent" than you


    February 3, 2010 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  13. Ridgeway

    Now the use of the word retarded would be acceptable in any context with Arlen Specter's name.
    Elections are coming and Arlen in the words of Curly Bill (Powers Booth), "Well. Bye."

    February 3, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  14. m smith

    Fed up in Boston YOu are an idiot. Didn't yu see the slap down he gave to the reps. All unscripted. None of you had much to say about that. I wonder why??? He was the only adult in the room at both meetings. Proud to have a president that can talk about many subjects with authority . Better than the last one that could hardly speak. Go to fox news if all you can do is bash the president. Thats where all the lies are told. No fact check there

    February 3, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  15. M Dukakis Williams

    Sad, very sad. The Democrats have to resort to photo-ops and pre-screened questions to make them sound tough to the voters. All this after NObama tries to act "bi-partisan" last week at the GOP conference, when he only wanted to parrot his own failed ideas. Pathetic. 2010 and 2012 can't come fast enough to clean house. Enough amateur hour at the White House; enough tax-and-spend liberals in Congress who would rather run this country in the ground than actually do something good for America

    February 3, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  16. Michael from Ventura

    This President is doing the right thing by having these meetings. I sure didn't see this under any republican administration!

    February 3, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  17. Donkey Party

    What's the difference between Al-Queda and the GOP? One group is a bunch of religious fanatics who take pleasure in killing Americans and are Hell-bent on destroying our country, the other group is just a bunch of misguided goat and camel-herders.

    February 3, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
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