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. Dino192

    Hey Vic ... she is from Minnesota smart guy

    February 3, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. Re-election Worries

    This article reveals what the major problem is in Washington DC.

    Senators and Congress basicly sitting in thier offices thinking,,,
    " What do I have to say to make people vote for me? "

    Not thinking about what is GOOD for this country and the people who are not part of a big political system. They do not think about the single moms, the blue collar man trying to support his family on less than 10 bucks an hour and no benefits, or the retired person who is trying to make ends meet when most of the programs designed to help those people are broken or corrupt.

    The article is about the Democrats, but the truth is, it is BOTH parties. And until the American public can take of the political party blinders and vote these people out, they will continue to think of themselves and NOT us, the American citizens. Stop voting Democrat just because your a Democrat, and the same goes for Republicans. Take away the R and D, and vote for the CANDIDATE. Not the party.

    Where were these senators when the Health Care debate was going on? They all crumbled like a house of cards to Pelosi and Rieds wishes. They all caved tot he whims of the administration. BUT now that Brown made as much history as Obama did by taking away a solid Democratic seat, they are now fussing over re-elections. Why did they not stand up to Ried and Obama BEOFRE THIS?
    Brown awoke the truth. The fact they were not listening. Now I hope they all pay for it. I hope not one single spineless jerk get re-elected. They bowed to the great Ried and Obama, tell these people, it is too late. You blew it. Vote for each and every one of thems opponent in November.

    February 3, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Thank you President Obama for lending yourself to this type of political self-advancement from you fellow Party members.

    I do not need to point out that being able to hold these types of sessions can only be done by someone who KNOWS the issues. Do not accuse Obama of arrogance, it's like the dummies in the class hating on the student that is always well-prepared and on top of his game.

    I respect my President even more now.

    Obama 2012!

    February 3, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  4. cgsailor

    Pure kabuki dance in an attempt to distract voters that already know how pathetic this group really is...

    February 3, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. D.

    Don't worry Mr. President these hard questioning guys will be gone by next year.. Now that the public admits is was safer to fly under Bush, the "change gimmick" is evaporating.....

    February 3, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. jules sand-perkins

    Senator Lincoln is completely correct to speak up for a RESTORATION OF LOGIC among Democrats.
    It will be a long time before I can trust another Democrat as much as I did President Truman or President Kennedy–in fact, since I am 71 years old, what trust I could place in a Democratic president, after President Obama's agenda, will not return within my lifetime.

    February 3, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  7. Avg Guy in Red State Kansas

    Politics in America has evolved to where it's gone beyond to cheap theatre to gross stupidity.

    George Washington's idea (stolen from the ancient Greeks) was that if a person pursues political office, he or she is unworthy to serve.

    Every bloody politician I've ever known is always "on" and grubbing around in the mud for money and votes. And, it's even worse when the cameras and mics are on!

    If one of them ever stands up and puts the best interests of his or her constituents before their on personal gain, I'll kiss your a** in the middle of downtown Wichita at high noon!

    February 3, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Ah yes, here are the right-wingnuts we've come to know so well. Since it was the Democrats turn with the Prez, now you're alleging that the questions were "prepped". When the Prez MOPPED THE FLOOR WITH YOUR 'BEST OF THE BEST' YOU HAD JACK-SQUAT TO SAY.
    You guys make a lot more sense when you choose to be quiet.

    February 3, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  9. Steve (the real one)

    Showmanship at it's best. First everyone is asking what the President is going to do. Sen Bennett asking "What are we going to do differently? No wonder many of us think Congress is clueless!

    February 3, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  10. HogFan

    John Gray for U.S. Senate! Blanche Out, John In!

    It's time to give the Green Party a real chance. Check out his platform, It's all great.

    February 3, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  11. Josiah

    I get it, this little dog and pony show is for the cameras and you're being tough and standing up to Obama – good job! Now that said, you Democrats need to get it together, everyone else "present" in America sees your weak back biting whimpering and want's to pull their hair out – At least the American Taliban the Republicons get it – if one says Bankrupting our country is a good idea – they all say it in lock step unison. If one says taking away nearly all the illusory rights and freedoms of Americans is a good thing – they all say it in lock step unison. If one tries to pass off a beauty pageant reject as someone of any significance – then they all say so in lock step unison. If one says hey let's spend it up and create Big Governent when we're in office and let the Democrats pay it back every time while saying that what we're doing is actually what the Democrats do – they all say it in lock step unison. If one says hey we've got these religious idiots in our pocket and can simply foist our exacting and evil characteristics onto the Democrats – then they all do in lock step unison.
    Hey CNN little slow to those Fact Checks!

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

    It is true..The last time the budget was balanced was under Bill Clinton.....Then W squandered it, ballooned it, and drove us into a near Depression.....Its time to invest in America and get us back to work...

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

    AMEN Dino192

    This was absolutely scripted and this so-called CNN reporter /cheerleader Dana Bash went with it big time. This quote says it all about Ms. Bash's slant:

    "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."

    The whole Dem party in Congress is a joke and

    Nov. can't come fast enough.

    February 3, 2010 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Mike in MN

    Looks like Obama caught hell from his own party and rightly so. Bayh is right. Obama's new budget that grows spending by 300 billion and the defict by 256 billion. In fact 2009, a year of recession had a deficit of 1.3 trillion and 2010, a year of projected economic growth is projected to have a deficit of 1.56 trillion based on Obama's new budget. Bayh is 100% correct to ask why the Democrat party should be trusted. Obama made a big speech the other day on how his new budget is full of measures to bring down the defict. When the public digests the real numbers, Obama will look like a lier.
    And when Obama tells Bayh that they party should be trusted because the last President to balance the budget was a Democrat, he fails to mention that congress was run by Republicans under Clinton and Obama is no Bill Clinton.

    February 3, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    Here is hope and change that none of them no matter what party they are with, get re-elected.
    Vote them out, and if they are in put them out this fall and in the next election and every election going forward until they become the servants of the people once more.

    February 3, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. Chris D.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the Presidents' Q & A with the GOP house last Friday........If anyone loves real debate, and real answers, last Friday would have satisfied many........
    The President is bar none the best of the best in politics. He gives real substanitive answers.
    I'm beginning to believe that the GOP takeover would do Obama better, as the GOP at least challenges the President to be better and do better........the DEMS in the senate are a bunch of jelly spined individuals. What a shame.

    February 3, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  17. Dan J

    What? They are vulnerable because they ended up caving to liberals and ALL ended up voting for AWFUL Health care legislation. All of the vulnerable Senators are in states where the bad legislation WASN'T popular!

    February 3, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. Harriett in Chapel Hill

    Obama did well, and I'm really glad he is using such undisputed facts so aggressively. I pray that it's not too late for HCR. Keep fighting!!!

    February 3, 2010 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  19. Mike1952

    Until Obama accepts responsibility for the economy the democrats will continue to suffer. No one wants a president who blames the bad on someone else and accepts all the good as his accomplishment. The average voter knows better. He wanted the job and sold a bunch of independents on how he could do better. So do it!

    Bush inherited a recession, albeit not as bad, and withstood a stock market crash of gigantic proportion, and handled 9/11 expertly. All presidents have problems. We don't elect them to blame, we elect them to solve.

    February 3, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Donkey Party

    To "Fed up in Boston" @ 4:50pm –

    How painful it must be going through life with all that useless grey matter in your head. The President just did do the same thing last Friday with the GOPPERS you moron! Fox News cut out early when they saw how BADLY the RepubliCONS looked while President Obama mopped the floor with them. Pull your head out of your ass (stop watching Fox News) before you make anymore asinine comments.

    February 3, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  21. Brian from NJ

    There were no balanced budgets or surplusses... they were still borrowing money from Social Security in the form of gov't securities... that is the law! And the total debt rose each year during Clinton's Presidency. How can you claim a surplus when your total debt is increasing?

    Only in DC could they borrow money from themselves and tell us that they have a surplus...

    February 3, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  22. Mike in MN

    This is too funny. Obama trashs the Republicans for obstucting even though they do not have the votes to do so. Then he takes questions from his own party Senators who stick it to him. He would get just as much or more heat in the House from his own party. The reason he has not been able to pass everything he wanted is because members from his own party in the House and Senate have voted against the bills. And they have voted against the bills because a majority of voters are opposed to them.
    In fact when Obama trashs Republicians for not voting for bills supporting his agenda, he is just reminding voters that Republicans did not vote for the bills that they do not like, only the Democrats have voted for them. So I'm sure Republicans are happy to have Obama remind voters that Republicans are opposed to the same bills that they are.

    February 3, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Mike in MN: "....and Obama is no Bill Clinton".
    First of all, he answered the question truthfully. He said the last itme the budget balanced it was under a Democratic president, period. Don't pull your usual stretching of the argument in order to make it seem like he lied. He did'nt.

    Secondly, you're darn right he's no Bill Clinton (and I voted for Bill), and that may be the problem. The fact is that Obama DOES NOT belong to the good ole boy club of SPOUSAL INFIDELITIES, CORPORATE KICKBACKS, MISAPPROPRIATION OF FUNDS, LYING TO A GRAND JURY, FELON ETC. ETC. No he is no Bill Clinton. You have not been able to pin him with a "Monica". Perhaps if Obama belonged to the thieving, lying, amoral, cesspool that is Washington DC, you all would be bending over backwards to play ball with him. You know what they say: birds of a feather STICK TOGETHER!!!

    February 3, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  24. Felonious Monk

    Now their concerned about jobs, repubs and dems alike...where were they in the 80's and 90's when the manufacturing base left America? This fake concern is sickening...they should have fixed this problem years ago, but accepted payolla instead.

    What a shame America has become!!!!!

    February 3, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  25. B

    It is truly amazing that Obama has to lay out every little detail of every program to these people that are supposed to be professionals that should understand what he is trying to do.

    It sounds like he is talking to children.

    February 3, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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