Netroots Challenge White House Spokesman on Gay Rights

June 17, 2011 6:14 a.m.
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MINNEAPOLIS — Here’s how Netroots works: Just about everyone here plans on voting for President Obama next year, and more than a few of them will work on his behalf, too. But you don’t come here to talk about how great the White House is — you come here to talk about how disappointed you are in the team that’s running it.

On Friday morning, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer came to Minneapolis to face the music. In an hour-long grilling session led by DailyKos blogger Kaili Joy Gray, Pfeiffer took tough questions about tax cuts, the health care plan, the environment, the general ineffectiveness of Congress, Afghanistan, Libya and progressives’ number one beef, Obama’s compromising nature.Pfeiffer turned on the spin machine more than once, leaving the audience upset and Gray to respond with a sarcastic, “really?” face.

But Pfeiffer showed signs of trying to heal rifts with the Netroots community as well. “You’ll note I never used that phrase [professional left],” he said, distancing himself from attacks on liberal critics that have been part of Obama communications shops of old.

Here’s a good example of what it sounded like — and the dilemma faced by the Netroots crowd when it comes to Obama. Gray hit Pfeiffer with some tough questions about gay rights, prompting a lively back-and-forth that delved into “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” DOMA and Obama’s shifting positions on gay marriage.

“This president has been the most progressive president on these issues we’ve ever had–” Pfeiffer began.

Gray cut him off.

“Well, that’s a pretty low bar,” she said.

It was a satisfying line of attack for progressives smarting over the slow advance of gay rights in America. But Pfeiffer was able to deflect it with one simple line:

“I would not begrudge a single person who feels strongly about this for being upset with the president about it,” Pfeiffer said. “But what I can promise you is, if someone else is president, all the other things I talked about [DADT, same-sex partner benefits, etc] are all going to go away.”

Late update: Here’s video of the session:

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