Dan Pfeiffer was subjected to some tough questioning by liberal online activists in Minneapolis
It's not every day that a member of the Obama administration has to submit to sustained, unrelenting, and, more importantly, public questioning, and when someone does, it's not hard to see why they avoid it. When White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer sat down with Daily Kos Associate Editor Kaili Joy Gray at Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of progressive activists, he got hammered.
The so-called "professional left" that former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs once maligned had a bone to pick with the president. They feel he's let them down on myriad issues, from gay marriage to passing immigration reform and climate change bills to closing Guantanamo Bay.
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Take a heated exchange between Gray and Pfeiffer: she asked about whether the administration agrees that there has been a "war on women," as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., have suggested.
Yes, Pfeiffer said, Republicans have tried to undo a lot of our progress. He listed some examples of what the administration has done to protect women, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which passed Congress in 2009.
"You mentioned Lilly Ledbetter. Frankly we're a little tired of hearing about that one," Gray responded icily.
This was not atypical of the session, which lasted just over an hour. The exchange was just as heated when the subject of fully repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell came up, when Gray repeatedly asked Pfeiffer, "so when are you going to stop kicking people out of the military?" Each time, he gave her some version of "soon." And on many of the issues, Pfeiffer could do little more than say that the administration's hands were tied by an unfriendly Congress.
Still, after each attempt Pfeiffer made to defend the president, Gray would let out a long, dubious, "okayyyyy," the most obvious hint at the angst some liberals still feel toward the administration.
Later, Pfeiffer fielded a question about why the president doesn't support gay marriage, which he is reportedly "coming around to" with time. To defend the president's record, the communications director pointed to a list of other successes, including ensuring federal benefits for the spouses of federal workers in same-sex couples.