White House Appeals to Liberals on Debt Deal

The left isn't happy about President Obama agreeing to deep spending cuts, but the White House is making a hard sell

The White House moved aggressively on Monday to tamp down liberal criticism of the debt deal crafted by President Obama and congressional leaders, insisting that the initial barrage of progressive attacks on the compromise was based on misunderstandings of its details.

Senior aides in Washington and campaign officials in Chicago reached out to activists and to liberal members of Congress, hitting hard at the message that the president stayed true to his beliefs and protected programs for the poor and the needy.

But it was a hard sell on a day when The New York Times editorially called the deal "a nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists" and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote in The Huffington Post that "the radical right has now won a huge tactical and strategic victory."

Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, also weighed in, calling the compromise "an attack on middle-class families" that "asks nothing of the rich, will reduce middle-class jobs, and lines up Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for cuts."

But the White House fought back.

Asked on "Good Morning America" if the president had committed "abject surrender," Senior White House Adviser David Plouffe, shot back, "Absolutely not." He argued the president protected education, medical research, and programs that protect the most vulnerable. On NBC's "Meet the Press," Plouffe added, "programs like Medicaid, college loans, children's health care would be protected."

Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett said she is among the aides making phone calls to Democrats to rally support. Many of the members of Congress she has called were basing their initial opposition on early, incomplete reports of what is in the deal, she said. They were "initially skeptical," Jarrett said on MSNBC, "but when they see the details of the package, they're becoming increasingly comfortable."

A senior administration official who asked not to be named made the same point to reporters at the White House. Much of the initial criticism, he said, was based on "a very inaccurate version of the deal that was reported by a lot of folks." He added, "As we make the case to Democrats there will be a very different view of us." On Sunday night that official said, "Every quote you have from a Democrat today is based on most likely very inaccurate information."

While most of the White House calls were to members of Congress, the Obama reelection campaign was also reaching out to liberals at the grassroots. An official insisted that the effort builds on what the campaign already was doing. "Our whole field organization is set up to talk to the grassroots everyday," he said. "So that's certainly some of the outreach we'll be doing today starting with the video from the president to our e-mail list."

Presented by

George E. Condon Jr.

George E. Condon Jr is a staff writer (White House) with National Journal.

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