Mr. Gibbs Separates the Powers

NIghtBeat_icon_resized_for_embed.gifFrom the Night Beat:

LIKE STEINBRENNER v. MARTIN: Robert Gibbs's Kinsley gaffe about the potential for Republicans to take over the House was an inadvertent and significant political error.

But the resulting conflagration was not primarily about what Gibbs said.

Indeed, the White House and Speaker Pelosi's office are putting out word tonight that there was NO mention of Robert Gibbs during the Speaker's meeting with President Obama today. And Gibbs made sure to pivot right back to the Republican record.

Tensions between the White House and the House have ebbed and flowed, but they've existed ever since the stimulus package ... ever since the House took a tough vote on energy legislation that the Senate didn't reciprocate ... ever since the House put the public option on the line, only to see it taken off the line. The perception that the White House protects the Senate and takes the House for granted is real.

Gibbs has apologized for his mistake; the White House has tried to tamp down the angry words, knowing that public discussion of the kerfluffle makes it harmful where it had just been hurtful. A memo describing the scope of the White House fundraising activities seems to have done little but open the anger vent even wider.

The main reason for Nancy Pelosi's behind-the-scenes thundering at a White House leg affairs staffer is legit: the DCCC and her candidates need big donors and small donors to pony up money to defend their seats. Conceding the possibility of a takeover could cost the committees and candidates millions of dollars. And it will no doubt help Republicans raise a significant amount of money.  When Karl Rove stuck to the nostrum that Republicans would definitely keep the House in 2006, it wasn't because he was stupid: it was because he knew that the White House has a formidable signaling capacity to donors and activist facilitators.

Democrats feel they've had the momentum the last four weeks ... with consequent malaprops from Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. John Boehner. They were away for a week and worked their butts off back home, and then Gibbs said what he did and that's what greeted them in Washington.

In the end, this is a Washington problem and compared to most Congress-President relationships, this one is quite strong. But feelings are raw, members' hides are raw, and those raw hides are on the line.

BTW: everyone in the House loves Vice President Biden. He's been their champion, money wise.

PENN PAL: Brian Goldsmith notes that the White House's message for the midterms, "forward not back" -- repeated ad nauseum since the Sunday shows -- seems to come from an unlikely source. Mark Penn suggested it in Politico and originally wrote it in 2005 on behalf of another embattled progressive party, British Labour, which then cruised to a win.

.CONDOM: Little noticed but quite important today: the Domain Name Service, the roots of the Internet, is now fully sheathed by a protective layer of digital authentication. What this means: it is now harder to damage the guts of the Net. For a year, the Department of Commerce has been working with the IT industry to get this done, and it's done.

NEXT WEEK'S TIME: Michael Crowley wrote the cover story on the stalled economy. With the stimulus package soon to run out and poor jobs numbers continuing and elections approaching, the Obama administration is facing a difficult balancing act -- to spend or not spend?

REID TOO MUCH?: It was quite interesting to note what Sen. Harry Reid did not mention in his preview of the Senate calendar for the remainder of the summer -- START ratification. The administration is still holding to the public line that it would like to see a final Senate vote by the end of the summer, but with the treaty not yet out of committee and Senate floor time at a bare minimum, that is looking less and less likely. This may have to be held over to September. There are whispers of a potential deal between Democrats and Republicans, but I'm only picking up whispers. 

GOP & GAYS: Joshua Green's column tomorrow notices the spate of Republican judges who are advancing the cause of gay marriage:
[T]he Republican pedigrees of the judges moving gay marriage toward legality [is] all the more striking, particularly in how it contrasts with conservative outcries about judicial activism. But more than that, it's a gauge of how far from the mainstream modern conservative jurists have drifted.
Read more tomorrow.

BUSINESS BEAT: Daniel Indiviglio tells us that RealtyTrac will tomorrow release its foreclosure data for June. Levels have remained high this year, but appear to be improving a little over the past few months. The next few days will provide a double-dose of inflation data. The government provides producer price level tomorrow and the consumer price index on Friday. The Senate Banking Committee will hold hearings on Thursday to begin to consider President Obama's three nominees for new Federal Reserve governors. They include Janet Yellen, Peter Diamond, and Sarah Bloom Raskin.

Jobs are the top message priority for Republicans, too, but they've been dog-whistling to their base on the "broken promise" on abortion in health care. 

BRIEFLY:

-- Cloture on Wall Street reform in the Senate is at 11:00 am EST tomorrow.

-- Attention teachers' unions: Arne Duncan will speak tomorrow to the board of the folks who give you the AP tests in Washington on raising high school performance standards and levels. He'll be at the Marriott Wardman Park at 4:50 pm.

-- Why do the Young Republicans like the Liaison hotel so much? That's where they always hold their conferences. Anyway, sorry. Distracted. They'll hear tomorrow from Minority Leader (or, if you're Bill Galston, the next Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, who will speak "about the Democrat agenda and Republican efforts to counter it with the kind of straightforward, common-sense approach Americans are looking for from Washington."

-- Shane Harris on the one Russian spy who might actually have learned valuable stuff about valuable stuff.
Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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