Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

White House officials make nice with labor

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 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.

Here's what's going down as we speak, according to a source who is present. Labor officials pointedly told the White House reps that they stood by their effort in Arkansas and were proud of it, and that they would continue making endorsement decisions not according to the letter next to the incumbent's name, but solely on who was better for their members.

In response, Gaspard, the White House official with perhaps the deepest roots in labor, assured those present that he understood that unions should remain independent. He asked the labor officials not to let one comment foul up relations between labor and the White House.

Gaspard also assured those assembled that he understood that labor's first responsibility is to their members.

So it looks like the White House does regret dumping on labor after all, and does understand that the judicious move here is to walk back the criticism and insults, if only in private. More as I learn it.

By Greg Sargent  |  June 10, 2010; 11:36 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Did labor just want to 'send a message' to Dems?
Next: Schumer cheers Blanche for fighting unions?


Honestly, if I were Labor I wouldn't accept this apology unless the unnamed official came forth with an apology. Otherwise its BS. Why have a "secret" meeting to apologize when the criticism was anything but? They are getting played right now.

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | June 10, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Does the White House realize that no matter what peace pipe gets smoked at this meeting, Lincoln will still go down in Nov. without labor/Progressive support in Ark? Rahmbo can walk back the insult in private, but nothing changes.

Posted by: bmcchgo | June 10, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

SG -- fair point but I wanna reserve judgment and see what else happens there and subsequently...

and bmcchgo -- sure hope they understand that.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 10, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Could this all be theater and both the admin and the labor unions are involved?

Who cares really.

I think the real story is why have Obama's cabinet secretaries and other heads of divisions failed to properly inform him early on of the scope of this disaster and are failing him recently.

I think they really did this President and this country a disservice.

That Rolling Stone's article really shed some light on the scenario of events.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 10, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Slave Sargent:
"In a private meeting currently under way with labor leaders..."


"The private make-up session is directly at odds..."

Hate to break this to you, but if you're blabbing about it, it ain't THAT private, is it?

So why not have Gibbs go in front of the cameras in the Press Room and practice his coprophagia for the Labor Bosses' benefit?

Is your source on the White House Goon side or the Labor Thug side?

The point being that I'd be interested in learning which crew wanted to keep this "private"...

Posted by: Bilgeman | June 10, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

"Lincoln will still go down in Nov. without labor/Progressive support in Ark?"

All indications are that Lincoln will still go down even WITH labor/Progressive support.

Posted by: sbj3 | June 10, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Greg, Both the unions leaders and the WH officials are big boys and know how to play the politics. Typical end of an election venting. IMO, this is all just another shiny object of tempest in a tea cup ginned by the media. Wanna bet that none of you will be talking about this by next week ?

Posted by: amkeew | June 10, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Politics 101

One the night of the election, the primary winner congratulates their opponent, for their hard fought campaign, and looks forward to meeting with them, to address their concerns. Then they invite them to a unity breakfast, to make plans to work together to defeat the other party in the general election.

The political communications operations staff in this White House has to be cleaned out, and replaced.

Their stupid pissing on the unions, following on their clumsy and unsuccessful attempts to get candidates to stay out of two primary races, and their allowing the story to get legs, before they finally addressed the issue, says: Three Strikes. Your out.

They are politically tone deaf, and habitual screw ups. Time to bring in some seasoned political communications staff, who know what they are doing, or this crowd will make a mess of the general election campaign.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 10, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The unnamed official should be fired at a minimum. Demand a scalp. Otherwise, you will not be taken seriously.

Posted by: Hesiod_2k | June 10, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"The unnamed official should be fired at a minimum. "

So, if Raum said this, he should be fired?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 10, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Total B/S. He's one of your boys on election night: Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) held up two fists and said of her primary campaign: "Fighting Wall Street with one hand, unions with the other."

Posted by: obrier2 | June 10, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

That would be just killing the messenger. The word went around yesterday, that what was said about the unions, by the anonymous official, was actually the consensus view of all senior political operatives in the White House.

The leaker was sent out to leak that message. It was done on orders from higher up.

Rahm had to know about that in advance. He probably was the one who signed off on it.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 10, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

"Time to bring in some seasoned political communications staff, who know what they are doing, or this crowd will make a mess of the general election campaign"

That's a bit of a stretch. Obama won VA and IN one of which Bush won by 20%.

If you remember, the political staff during the campaign was known for running a tight ship. It's whomever are the new people who like giving leaks to the press to stroke their ego which are the problem, of whom could very well be seasoned political communications staff.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 10, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

That "anonymous" comment, and Gibbs statement were about the stupidest thing I've heard out of this administration, and there have been an ocean of stupidities lately. Arkansas is not the only place Obama and the Democrats are going to need the support of labor and progressives. You can't fix stupid--in private or in public.

For the record, I am not pro-organized labor, but I am definitely anti-arrogant stupidity.

Posted by: nicekid | June 10, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

The White House does not get it. By the end of 2011 Blanche will be an ex senator. She cannot get any grass roots supportr or money.

Posted by: MikeQ2 | June 10, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

"this is all just another shiny object of tempest in a tea cup ginned by the media"


Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 10, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow, so Boehner thinks a tax payer bailout is needed for the BP Gulf Spill.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 10, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Two things need to happen to make this right:

1. The WH staffer needs to come forward and own the comment, then defend it. And

2. The staffer should speak directly, on record, with labor leaders.

This "behind closed doors" stuff is not what the Obama White House is about. Public servants should serve the public publicly.

And if Gaspard really believes that 'one comment' is at issue here, they're wrong. There has been a systematic failure of the Obama White House to deliver on promises of change with EFCA, healthcare public option, job creation, and fair taxation.

Posted by: benintn | June 10, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

If I ran an influential blog, I'd ask every Republican in the House if they agreed with their leader that tax payers should bail out BP and pay for the spill clean up.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 10, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"Wanna bet that none of you will be talking about this by next week ?"

I doubt anyone will be talking about by tomorrow morning...

Posted by: Bilgeman | June 10, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Yup, saw this coming.

The White House, and the entire Dem Establishment got tagged hard on Tuesday night. I think the high of winning is wearing off and they are coming to the realization that it took 2 Presidents (one from the state) and Chamber of Commerce funding to hold off the Netroots and Labor - in an anti-union state with the 2nd lowest union population in the nation.

Yeah, anyone who thinks this wasn't a massive show of political strength for the unions and the netroots activists is either stupid or has an agenda.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | June 10, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

All, Chuck Schumer is now cheering on Blanche Lincoln specifically for fighting unions:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 10, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse


If I ran an influential blog...I'd ask move right past asking if they agree, I'd try to find out from every Reppublican HOW MUCH money the taxpayers ought to spend to clean up BPs mess.

How many millions of taxpayer money should go to bail BP out of this mess?

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | June 10, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

In Political terms, the November election is light years away. A week is a life time in politics.

Blanche could still win it. Just because the polls are against her now, does not mean that she can not pull it out.

She is all that we have in the damn race, and giving up the seat to the Republicans, without an all out fight, on our part, is down right stupid.

I am not a fan of Blanche, but I would prefer to have her hold the seat, so that we can at least get some bills to the floor for debate, rather than cede it to the Republicans.

Anything can happen, between now and November, to turn the race around. Up until very recently, every one was writing off Harry Reid's chances.

Blanche's opponent might have a Senator George Allen like moment, and collapse in the polls. It happened to Allen, and it happened to Sue Lowden, so I see no reason to cede anything to the Republican in Arkansas.

She may not be the most progressive Democrat in the world, but I will give Blanche credit for being a fighter.

She won the runoff, so now she is our candidate. Unity is a two way street. Any surrender monkeys, who just want to cut and run, and turn over the seat to the Republicans, without making them fight to win it, should get the hell out of Democratic politics now.

Now is the time for all true Democrats to come to the aid of the party.

Blanche is our nominee, so it is time for all to push for her to win in November.

That includes labor unions, because if they think that a Republican Senator from Arkansas will not be worse for them, than even Blanche has been, they are delusional.

Blanche is now the lesser of two evils, so we have to try like hell to keep her in office.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 10, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I blanch at the thought of Blanche being reelected. I am from Clarksville, AR, and will never support any effort to back Blanche, thousands of other voters in AR feel the same. Also, the November election in AR will get another incompetant elected as their senator, it just will not be Blanche. Incompetence and dishonesty thrives in the below average state of AR.

Posted by: MikeQ2 | June 10, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a pathetic, corporatist Democrat who will only take what the Republicans are willing to give. He is not a friend to progressives or to labor.

Democrats are not going to get the "Change" they were sold unless they stand up to the powers that be in their own party. If you need any reminder, just remember what Rahm Emmanuel said about the progressives.

Posted by: ram_lopez | June 10, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse


This article may shed some light on why the Labor Bosses flexed their muscle and why the Odministration wnats to kiss their behinds and make up.

With "rent-a-crowd" ACORN out of the picture, and possibly down for the long count, could it be that the Labor Thugs think that they're going to get back into the "Feets on the Streets" business?

The Alleged Hawaiian is gonna need SOMEONE to fill that big ACORN-sized gap, ain't he?
Especially now that Americans have had two years' experience of him.

And as usual, the Labor Bosses have their heads straight up their wazoos.
They haven't got the numbers...bottom line.

Not in Arkansas, and nowhere else, frankly.

Posted by: Bilgeman | June 10, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I really have trouble believing that a "senior" WH official called Ben Smith to drop that statement. If it was Rahm, as some are assuming, he has 24/7 access to every leading journalist in the country.

If Ben has become so powerful in the White House circle, maybe he should get that front seat.

Posted by: Beeliever | June 10, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The Judicial Watch page referenced above:

"Poverty Pimpin'"

PERFECT! Exactly!

Posted by: Bilgeman | June 10, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

@liam:That includes labor unions, because if they think that a Republican Senator from Arkansas will not be worse for them, than even Blanche has been, they are delusional.

Blanche is now the lesser of two evils, so we have to try like hell to keep her in office.

I am not sure I agree. Lincoln is only marginally better than a republican and she regularly makes dems look weak by siding with republicans on things like the estate tax, union rights, and health care. Where is she on off shore drilling?

Does it look better, in terms of messaging, if a dem from AR votes with the republicans much of the time or if a repub votes with the repubs all of the time?

If she were the 51st vote, I can see going all out for her, but since she isn't, I don't see why progressives and labor unions should campaign for someone who doesn't stand with them on very basic, core, democratic principles. Sure, encourage dems to vote for her, give her a formal endorsement, but canvasing, calling, buying ads? She needs to get with the program if she wants that kind of support.

Posted by: srw3 | June 10, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Are you certain that Lincoln wouldn't be the 51st seat?

I intend to do whatever I can to keep Republicans from regaining the majority in November.

Posted by: Beeliever | June 10, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Every Senate seat that you keep out of the hands of Republicans, is one more seat that they have to pick up elsewhere, in order to become the majority, and get more votes on all committees, including the one that decides if judicial nominees are allowed to be sent to the floor for a vote.

It would be stupid to surrender one more seat to them, without a fight. As soon as they hold fifty one senate seats, then President Obama will not get anything passed, and he will have the Republican controlled senate dictating which judicial nominees will be accepted.

Keep your eye on the prize, instead of nursing feel good self defeating grudges.

She won both rounds of the primary contest, so she is the Party nominee.

I always believe in being a gracious loser. I even congratulated The Republicans for their big win in Mass, when they captured the seat that used to be held by Ted Kennedy.

So, congratulations to Blanche, and we should all do our best to make sure that she keeps the seat out of the Republican side of the aisle.

The White House should also learn to be a gracious winner.

I suspect that their was a lot internal triumphant high fiving going on that night, and it ended up with they all agreeing that it would be a great idea to call up a media outlet, and b**ch slap the unions. Probably; a stupid gloating notion, that ended up in a drunk dialing event.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 10, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I agree that we have to fight for every seat to keep the majority.

I still don't believe that Obama was foolish enough to agree to that call to Ben Smith. Obama did as little as possible for Lincoln, while still supporting an incumbant. He obviously tried not to upset the progressives. And in the middle of an ecological disaster, I just don't think he would thumb his nose at them.

I think Ben Smith is self-important, desperate to push his career forward, and I take his "anonymous" source with a grain of salt.

Posted by: Beeliever | June 10, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I never said that I thought The President was even aware that call was being made.

I do believe that Rahm knew it was being made. It has his style of political response and finger prints all over it.

The word went around yesterday, that the whole thing was agreed on by the political staff.

President Obama is a student of Lincoln. He should pay attention to how Lincoln fired one general after another, until he found one who could take the fight to the enemy and keep in winning.

Rahm has to go. He is too abrasive for that position.

Hell, Nancy Reagan got rid of an abrasive Chief Of Staff, and brought in Howard Baker, to replace him, when Ronnie was in trouble.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 10, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

"So, congratulations to Blanche, and we should all do our best to make sure that she keeps the seat out of the Republican side of the aisle."

No can do, Bro. I will be glad to be rid of Lincoln. Sometimes you have to take a short-term hit to make real progress. This is one of those times. Bye Bye Blanche. Addition by subtraction.

Or, who knows, maybe those "shadowy groups" and labor-haters will bail her out. Not very likely. If people in AR want a Republican they'll vote for a real one, I imagine, not a facsimile. And real Dems will vote with their feet, which ain't going nowhere come election day.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 10, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I am old school. When the primary winner emerges, I always back them.

I will always support the worst Democrat, over even the best Republican.

I believe in keeping control of the Senate and all it's committees, especially The Judiciary, at all costs.

I never understand Progressives who are willing to cut off their noses, to spite their faces.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 10, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

"I never understand Progressives who are willing to cut off their noses, to spite their faces."

Think of it as rhinoplasty.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 10, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

This is not "one comment." This is a pattern of anti-middle/working class behavior.

If the unions fall for this, they are even dumber than the WH.

Posted by: solsticebelle | June 10, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama's pre election "brilliance" soon morphed into post election stupidity. Is this a man...or a mouse?

Posted by: woodymcbreairty | June 10, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

White House officials assure Labor that they understand organized Labor "must remain independent." One assumes that applies only to primary elections. Once a Democrat has been nominated however...

Posted by: ecrutle | June 10, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The comment about the unions wasting money in the Ark. campaign irked me so much that I sent an email to the White House website for the first time. Discovered the website has spellcheck. Still annoyed with the comment.

Posted by: bbahnsen1 | June 10, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

You have to love it. 2 months into an oil spill in the Gulf and the President has not met with the CEO of BP. Two days after insulting labor Unions they get a private meeting with the White House. Wake up people and see where the Presidents true priorites are.

Posted by: daveo2324 | June 10, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Just wondering, reported over last several weeks about the retirement/medical benefits funds run by unions are on the verge of collapse because of the underfunding. $10M is not chicken feed, wouldn't they be better serving their memebers to become fully funded?

Be interested to see if any UAW $$ in this, the taxpayers have already bailed them out once.

Posted by: alantich2000 | June 10, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

RE Liam and everybody jumping on the Blanche bandwagon:
WTF? How can voting for a Republican in a Democrat suit be any worse than voting for just a Republican? It's a lot more honest and forthright to just have the Republican, knowing that he or she is probably secretly gay or kinky, than to have a fake Democrat with no values to speak of in office. There should be a Lieberman party for dishonest, weaselly scumbags that people like Lincoln and maybe the Clintons could go into so they could be Rockefeller Republicans and not have to pretend to be Democrats.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | June 10, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

One comment that states the obvious - that they just blew $10 million requires this administration to GROVEL at the feet of the communist unions of this country?
This president makes this nation tow their line and they would tow
it over the cliff they themselves have created, if the upcoming elections weren't going to stop them.
Stupidity creates its own punishment.

Posted by: trevithick | June 10, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Scary::::this Marxist-leaning administration full of tax cheats, liars, thugs and incompetent fools want to make nicey-nicey with the unions?!!??! The only thing the unions who support Obama and his thugs/idiots want is total control of our government and redistribution of wealth which is Socialism/Marxism. The LAST thing we need right now is the thugs in the unions to get more power. They WILL destroy our economy and thereby destroy our country. Then watch what the Islamic terrorists do for a "mop up"!!!!

Posted by: colleenfontenot | June 10, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

"...birds of a feather flock together..." In this case, however, it's cancerous parasites of like mindedness working how to suck the life out of the United States--and then figure out how they're going to survive after they've killed the very economic being that allowed them to exist as long as they have without contributing. Oh, dear! They might have to actually generate worth themselves instead of sucking the life out of the "fat cats" they ran off to other countries. They'll probably resort to eating themselves first, the self-serving, self-absorbed twits they are.

Posted by: 65tarheel | June 10, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

This administration and its leader are incompetent and incapable of running this country. The only capability any of them have shown is their capability to drive this country in bankruptcy.

It's amusing that labor was invited to the white house. We all know that Obama is owned by the unions and would have to eat crow over any comment that ruffles the unions'corrupt feathers.

Posted by: elby | June 10, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

People who are anti-union have never done a day of real work for minimum wage in their entire lives.

If not for unions, do you think you would have even two weeks of paid vacation a year? Or ANY health benefits at all?

Unions have done the hard work of giving workers at LEAST a seat at the table. Otherwise, all of America would be sweatshops like in China.

Fools you are.

Posted by: theRealCalGal | June 10, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Labor and actual progressives are to Obama as Sister Souljah was to Clinton; a way to prove his independence.

The WH may publicly make nice, but they are damned glad the comment happened.

Posted by: howie14 | June 11, 2010 7:21 AM | Report abuse

June 11, 2010
SHAPIRO: Is President Obama better or worse than Jimmy Carter? BACHMANN: Worse. Easily worse. SHAPIRO: I agree. So far, you’d have to say he’s the worst president in United States history … BACHMANN: No question. No question. Hear other highlights of the interview at Big Government. Follow the link below.

Posted by: PaulRevere4 | June 11, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company