Vice President Joe Biden stoked a firestorm of liberal discontent with President Barack Obama on Monday – demanding that the Democratic base “stop whining” and start fighting Republicans instead of the White House.
Biden, speaking at a frozen yogurt plant in New Hampshire, said he wanted to “remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This President has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises."
The comments echo Obama’s own recent calls to demobilized Democrats to slough off their apathy – and their disappointment in him – and gear up ahead of the midterms, when Democrats are facing devastating losses.
Biden’s comments weren’t premeditated and reflect Biden’s shoot-from-the-lip style, officials said. But that matters little to a Democratic base grown somnambulant and frustrated with the president’s willingness to accept ugly, if productive, compromises on the stimulus, Wall Street reform and health care.
Judging from the initial reaction to Biden’s remarks in Manchester, the base is plenty fired up – and ready to go.
At Biden’s throat.
One Democratic operative gasped when told of Biden’s remarks and wondered “why they would pick a fight with the base” five weeks before a midterm election that will hinge on turnout.
“It’s idiotic is what it is,” says Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, one of Obama’s most pointed critics on the left. “If Democrats, with the White House and Congressional super-majorities, had delivered on what they had promised, and if people had jobs, no one would be whining. They have reaped what they sowed. They haven’t delivered on what they’ve promised — and instead of making the case as to why they would do if they are reelected, they are insulting people.
“It’s a far cry from Bill Clinton’s ‘I feel your pain,’” he added.
Adam Green, an organizer who bucked the White House by backing Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), tied Biden’s remarks to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ recent remark blaming the “professional left” for making too much noise.
“The ‘professional left’ is busting our butt to mobilize progressive voters in 2010, picking up the ball that this White House dropped when they refused to fight for the overwhelmingly popular public option, refused to break up the big banks, and demobilized Obama voters who expected this President to at least fight for big change,” he told POLITICO.
Referring to Lincoln who trails her GOP opponent by more than 25 points, Green added, “You're welcome, Joe Biden, for helping to get the more electable Democrat who actually excites voters to be the Democratic nominee -- instead of a lame corporate stooge. How's Blanche Lincoln working out?”
Said liberal strategist Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign manager: “It’s quintessential Joe Biden. The problem is, the base isn't the problem.”
Liberal cartoonist Tom Tomorrow, reflecting a flurry of angry Twitter traffic, wrote: "Stop whining" is a hell of a rallying cry… Critique of Obama's assassination policy [for al-Qaida leaders], to take one example, is not ‘whining’ ... it is dialogue necessary for future of democracy.”
And Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, the most outspoken critic of the administration’s continuation of some Bush administration anti-terror and surveillance programs, asked, “Do they really think "stop whining" is an effective message?” – answering, “Apparently.”
A spokesperson for Biden wouldn’t say if the vice-president – known for his too-honest public political pronouncements – had taken his shot intentionally.
But his comments are only the most extreme articulation of Obama’s recent statements exhorting his sleeping army to regroup ahead of a midterm election that is likely to cost Democrats one or both houses of Congress.
The family food fight comes as Obama begins an aggressive “backyard” barnstorming campaign in battleground states to close a nationwide enthusiasm gap that shows Republican and independent voters far more motivated to vote than the Democrats who propelled Obama to his historic 2008 win.
“Folks wake up! This is not some academic exercise. As Joe Biden put it, Don’t compare us to the Almighty, compare us to the alternative,” Obama said at a fundraiser in New York last week.
“It was easy showing up for the inauguration even though it was cold,” the president said, recalling, ”I’m polling at 70 percent, Beyoncé and Bono are singing. But I believe that the reason you got involved at the outset was not because we had cool pollsters, not because it was the trendy thing to do, not just because my predecessor had become unpopular, but because at some level we understood that the American dream had served each of us very well.”
Josh Gerstein contributed to this story.
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