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White House Trying to Kiss and Make Up With Unions

I hadn’t commented on the “pointless exercise” comments coming from some anonymous, cowardly sore winners at the White House after Blanche Lincoln’s runoff election victory, and the resultant pushback from labor. It seemed to me a dick-swinging comment by elites that wasn’t likely to look good after Lincoln got torched in November. In fact, if you look at the substance of the remarks, the White House was mainly opening up a safety valve in the event of losing the House so they could try to blame someone other than themselves.

Robert Gibbs tried unsuccessfully to walk this back yesterday, while keeping that safety valve open (because it’ll be labor’s fault that the job market sucks and voters take it out on Democrats). And now this morning, Greg Sargent notes the existence of a beer summit of sorts going on at AFL-CIO HQ:

In a private meeting currently under way with labor leaders, top White House officials are working hard to smooth over tensions in the wake of an anonymous administration’s official’s claim that unions had flushed $10 million down the toilet in Arkansas, and are stressing that they respect labor’s decision, sources say.

The private make-up session is directly at odds with the tough tone the White House official struck in the wake of the primary, and is also at odds with Robert Gibbs’ subsequent quasi-endorsement of the sentiment. In the meeting, a White House official asked labor to put the anonymous comment behind them, a source at the meeting says.

Representing the White House at the meeting, which is currently underway at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, are top advisers Patrick Gaspard and Jen O’Malley. On the labor side are AFL-CIO’s political directors.

I like how the peace offering consists of “hey, forget about how we disparaged you.” Really, that’s it?

I think labor’s basically done with this partnership. They aren’t above holding a meeting, but the rank and file simply will not let them defend the White House anymore. An independent labor movement can be a great asset to progressive politics, and I think that’s the direction in which we’re headed. The Administration can walk back or moonwalk or send a nice card on heavy stock or do whatever they can to woo labor again, but I think it’s over.

Digby sums up nicely:

I was at the session in which Richard Trumka came down hard on the government for its failure on jobs and Jared Bernstein really did look as though he’d rather be anywhere else on the planet but there. He probably knew that his canned speech touting the administration’s list of accomplishments was unresponsive to the questions raised by Trumka and the activists at that conference. I’m sorry that was uncomfortable for him, but that’s what he’s paid for. Nobody was rude. It was an adult conversation.

Bernstein left the dais as soon as he could and missed the excellent speech from Bob Herbert which was far, far more critical than Trumka’s was, and probably would have made him cry. (It almost made me cry.) But it would have been really good for him to hear it.

Two years ago this same conference was the most giddy gathering of Obama worshippers you were likely to see anywhere. I think he took something like 90% in the primary straw poll, far more than in the real primary electorate. The administration should be asking itself not why all these dirty hippies are so unruly and unpleasant, but what happened to all that love? I don’t get the sense that anyone’s interested in the answer to that question.

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David Dayen

David Dayen