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

Vulnerable Dems take advantage of session with Obama

President Obama met Wednesday with Senate Democrats.

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. c spurgeon

    The only Adult in the building seems to be Obama. I hope plenty on both sides go and am hping somewhere in this revolution we get term limits...

    February 3, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  2. harold

    Democrats try to spend money to help people avoid a Depression and a Depression in their personal lives of the people of the USA.. And all Republicans try to do ...is do what they did for the USA back in 1930.. Their last balanced budget for this country....in Their Great Depression of the 1930's..

    February 3, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. jenn, philadelphia

    Mr. President you can't say you want to work with the opposition and they take every opportunity to slam them. It's not conducive to building a relationship. Resorting to name calling is childish and someone needs to be the bigger person. Shouldn't that be you?

    February 3, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. c spurgeon

    I hope Bayh loses as well as many other incumbents. They dont have the moxy to stand for what they got elected on. They need to go.

    February 3, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. c spurgeon

    Lincoln is a misfit and needs to be voted out!

    February 3, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. rob

    Evan Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landreau and the other so called Blue Dogs need to go. They are what is wrong with the Democratic Party. Get rid of them and you will start to see real change. Love the new tone Mr. Prez! 🙂

    February 3, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  7. gt

    arlin your toast,,,, go retire,,,

    February 3, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. southerncousin

    Thats a liberal for you. When the country needs leadership and adults, you get play acting from the idiot in chief and his stooges.

    February 3, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. Liz

    If the Democrats want to get something accomplished and show the country we can govern, they need to meet in the middle and stick together. republican'ts are successful at blocking us at every turn because they stick together in their big NO. we need to leave them behind and move forward together with what the American people elected Democrats to do, and that was not fight amongst ourselves and sabotage Obama's agenda. and if the repubs threaten to fillibuster everything, make them FILLIBUSTER EVERYTHING. they'll get tired of it eventually and decide maybe they should become a part of government again.

    February 3, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  10. american patriot

    They can have all the sessions they want.

    Because in 2010 Washington is going to see the rise of the Second American Revolution.

    It is way overdue and the government no longer does what the people want. Corporate and Bank cash has purchased our government and put our REPUBLIC in DANGER

    Lets Roll

    February 3, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. gary davis harbor oregon

    now all the democrats need to heed the warning if you don't get off your butts and begin to work with the president you will be left behind . and loose your jobs . so it will be tuff fighting against a party that doesn't blink an eye to lie about anything that might get them elected . be firm and be optamistic and get organized as a party that supports the people not the minority (CEO'S ) and republican biggots , like palin rush cheney beck and the list goes on and on . these people have the ear of the media , they are good at lieing and threats of evil . look what bush cheney did for 8 years and the public beleived them back then .. so go forward and help get thois country back on track with the president . stop trying to sell yourself get people to vote fpr you because you want to continue to worlk for the people . not lik ethe republican you will be running against / he she supports coprporate america . not small business americans ....its WE THE PEOPLE keep that in mind when you go out and try to get elected 🙂 CHANGE IS HERE

    February 3, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  12. bj, Texas

    As the Church Lady would say, "How convenient!"

    February 3, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. Fed up in Boston

    What a joke.....

    First, why didn't Obama have a similar meeting with the Republicans televised?

    Second, of course these political 'hacks' are going to do whatever it takes now to appear that they care about the people they are SUPPOSED to represent....typical self-serving, do-nothing but live off taxpayer's money idiots.

    Third....to all of you hacks your ingenuous plea's for better governing all of sudden won't help your cause.....start packin'

    February 3, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. Vic of New York

    So what? Our Democrat Pols need to get some blood in their spines and if the President can help them all the better.

    It's time for loyal Americans to Pie-face Republican Party liers, apologists, and vacuum headed "mouths" like Michelle Bachman.

    Hey Michigan, doesn't she embarrass you?

    February 3, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. Sharon

    They (the Democrats) still don't get it. Reid–Pelosi-behind closed door meetings-are the same people who were hell bent on passing what we want–when we want it-and the dollar amount needed to accomplish their own agenda.

    Health Care Reform–every Democrat voted for it--the cost didn't matter–whether or not every American would be covered didn't matter-because they HAD THE POWER!

    So remember when you go to the polls (if we ever get to vote again)–remember it wasn't the Constitution that failed to uphold our economy it was member of the House & Senate on special committees such as Ways & Means Committee–Senate banking Committees–Senator Dodd–Sen Barney Frank–people who were the oversight to keep things in checks and balances who failed Americans.. No action can be taken against the Senators or Represenatives–BUT THESE REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS CAN POINT FINGERS–DECLARE THE CONSITUTION NEEDS TO BE AMENDED BECAUSE IT FAILED!

    Don't be deceived by the deciet of DC!

    February 3, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. Dar

    And we are supposed to beleive that these questions were not scripted.
    If these Dems who were standing (or acting) up to Odumbo were really doing so, then why didn't they stand up to him before when they were rushing to put the HC bill through???? And vote no. This all looks like smoke and mirrors, smells too.
    Anyway, if they are ready to do what is right, good for them. They must be starting to hear the people SCREAMING at them.

    2010/2012 REAL Change is coming

    February 3, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. Pam

    I am a Democrat and even I think it is a little late for these fools to ACT assertive. Where were these fools when thye bribed senators and took away the public option for health care? Throw the bums out and start over. Where were they in getting us out of 2 wars?
    They are filling their pockets and throwing the voters to the garbage heap.

    February 3, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  18. Bob in Pa

    Arlen is already history and he knows it.

    February 3, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. Glenn Koons

    Ah the Messiah is now not the Great Leader. Why? Because his policies that have been accepted all along by his Dem liberal lemmings in Congress are now in trouble with the citizens. Yep. Voters now realize what a group of leftist socialist pacifist loons Obama and his crew are. The Dems in the Senate and House are afraid of the voter putting them out. Now they want to act brave, independent. It will not work. Voters who are Indies, Reagan Dems, Libertarians and a united GOP know that these reps are hyopocritical leftists who were all for socialist tripe when it was popular on Election Day 2008. But, now policies, times, horrors, nonsense have popped up with his naif in the WH. People know as now the inane Dem reps are finding out. The Messiah has no experience, no ideals that look American, and really no expertise in anything having to do with capitalism, freedom, liberty. His own crew and mentors have made the Messiah just another Chicago thug. Kick all of them out in Nov. Blanche, Harry, Evan, Chuckie, Arlen, all of you are just flacks with no love for your own voters. The hell with you all. The worst Prez in my 71 years. Prayerfully, a one term malaprop of politics!

    February 3, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  20. Dan J

    I really don't get this awful, and dangerous double-standard. Democrats were supposed to be the party of ethics and equality. Yet the Chief of Staff makes some very offensive comments, and we are to believe the White House that he made an apology, one that was private, and not directed to the people he offended. The Senate Majority Leader goes and makes racist comments. Even the President himself made some pretty insensitive and offensive comments. Yet everyone seems to be giving them a pass. Why? Simply because they are Democrats and "don't really mean it." Yeah right! If these were Republicans they'd be losing their positions. Double Standard and it will catch up to these closet bigots. America is quickly learning the Dems aren't the "educated" party, nor are they the ethical party. Not much left there!

    February 3, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  21. wagon

    BHO is incompetent. The Democratic party is incompetent. They couldn't do anything with a supermajority in the Senate and barely snuck through a health care bill with an overwhelming majority in the House. They had to buy off senators and congressmen with deals to get support. And they blame it on the Republicans. That is typical of a democrat – blame someone else for your problems.

    If the Republicans are the party of 'Nope', the Democrats are the party of 'Dopes'.

    February 3, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. Glenn Koons

    Let me re-state : hypocritical is the word above. Every one of the Dems is perfect for that word.

    February 3, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  23. Jane/Seattle

    They might NOT be so vulnerable IF so many had not helped the Republicans Obstruct GOOD (Public Option) Healthcare legislation!

    If they all had not jumped on the Stimulus stuff and the Wall Street bailouts, perhaps they'd not be so blemished! maybe if they'd regulate Wall Street, instead of pay them off (I mean bailout!), they'd have more trust coming to them now.

    Finally, Maybe If President Obama had listened to those of us on White House.Gov who were telling him to get some good Economists, instead of Shock Doctors, they'd all be clear and citizens would KNOW that they ARE NOT Free Traders, just like the Republicans and others! Good Economists: Joseph Stiglitz, Ravi Batra, William Greider, Paul Krugman and some others. John Perkins, Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf, and Thom Hartmann also come to mind as folks who choose to write the real truths, not SPIN it for this Sell-out America/the World NOW and forever crowd. STOP THE KILLING WITH Weapons of Death now! STOP this Deception!
    Maybe they can all fool the Tea Partiers, but they won't fool those of us who KNOW these American Ways are NOT sustainable.

    February 3, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  24. Dino192

    So transparency means allowing 8 members to give rehearsed questions to Obama on television so that they can use them in press releases to drum up votes back home? What a joke.

    February 3, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  25. Jim

    The President is out of touch with the people that put him in office not with Democratic Senators. Yes the deficit was balanced under the last Democratic President and your not him. The spending habits of last year and those proposed in your new budget are wreckless and will bring us to financial ruin. However right President Bush took this country can not be compared to the polar opposite that you are taking us. Sen. Specter is an idiot for even asking asking you to revoke trade policies with China they own 1/2 of our debt. The problem with Healthcare is simple you can put a pig in a tuxedo, but it is still a pig.

    February 3, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
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