House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bashed White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Tuesday night, even as the president's top spokesman continued to backpedal from his assertion that Democrats could lose control of the House in the November election.
The fusillade from Pelosi and other Democrats at a closed-door meeting escalated an already fiery clash between the White House and its own party in Congress. During the tense evening meeting, the speaker grilled the top White House aide in attendance, senior legislative affairs staffer Dan Turton, about the impact of Gibbs' comments.
"How could [Gibbs] know what is going on in our districts?" Pelosi told her members in the caucus meeting in the basement of the Capitol Tuesday night. "Some may weigh his words more than others. We have made our disagreement known to the White House."
As noted, Gibbs has begun to walk back his comments, predicting the Dems will salvage the House and Senate this fall.
What makes this intriguing is, did Gibbs leave the reservation on his own accord, or was he thrown under the bus? (I must be a real pundit now! I'm using meaningless cliches.)
If Gibbs' words were aimed at Democratic activists, specifically liberal and leftish activists, then this was a surgical strike that had unfortunate (but deliberate) collateral damage. It's true, the Dems have played fast and loose with the party alliance between Congress and the White House. It took forever to pass a watered-down version of healthcare. While that's really a Senate issue, Pelosi could have been more forceful in getting a version slid through the House, forcing the Senate's hand.
That this was a scare tactic for liberals has some merit. There's a lot of griping about Obama's failure to live up to the ideals imposed upon him in the heat of the 2008 campaign. Failing to secure a Democratic majority in the House would surely seal his Presidency, since the intractability of Senate Republicans would only double and they could conceivably peel off some moderate Blue Dog Dems to some odious legislation.
If Gibbs' words were primarily aimed at Pelosi and company, then likely he's venting the frustrations of the administration as noted above. And he probably did it as a loose cannon and both inartfully and unintentionally. The question then becomes, why this warning?
I have a theory: this could have been a signal that the White House is rationing Obama's charisma and power to focus on specific races in key states that would impact his re-election. Why not kill two birds with one stone, and open the re-election campaign, by showing up in key districts and battleground states that he will need in 2012, instead of trying to salvage what the Congress has lost of their own accord?
The next few days will be interesting, to say the least.