Opinion: Chief Obama spokesman explains what Robert Gibbs really meant about Democrats losing the House

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One false move and the press secretary gets it!

Obama’s chief media spokesman Robert Gibbs on Sunday:

There’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control’ (of the House of Representatives).

Same guy, same job, three days later in the White House briefing:


Q: On politics, the Speaker of the House apparently didn’t think you were stating the obvious when you talked about there being enough seats in play for Republicans to potentially win control. And she -- several reports, including her own [say] that she’s lashed out at you for those comments. What is your reaction to that? Does it matter to you?MR. GIBBS: Well, look, of course the opinion of the Speaker of the House matters to me and matters to Democrats in Washington and throughout this country. Let’s be clear that the work that the House and the Speaker have done over the past 18 months in making tough choices, in making tough votes, and in passing the agenda of this President, have been monumental. I have not spoken with the Speaker. I -- Q: Would you like to?MR. GIBBS: If there’s an occasion to speak, of course. But I don’t have a whole lot to add to what I’ve said the last couple days on this, Ben, except to say that, as I said on Sunday, in three and a half months or so we’re going to have an election that will be based on a very clear choice....we are going to do very well. And as I have said throughout this, I think we will retain the House and the Senate.

In other words, when he said Republicans could win the House, Gibbs really meant he was pretty certain Dems would keep both.

Here’s the unacknowledged problem for Gibbs in the new post-partisan Washington that....

...his Chicago boss so earnestly promised to create last year: Gibbs told the truth. Not about what he’s been saying; that’s a fudge. But Democrats could lose the House this fall. And have a real good shot at dropping five or six of those nine seats in their crumbling Senate majority.

Truth-telling is a risky bipartisan business in the perversely upside-down world of D.C. morals. Truth-tellers there often must explain away their non-fib, even apologize. Although everyone knows it’s true. It’s just not helpful. So veracity goes under the bus while everyone looks the other way because they’ll likely need the same convenient courtesy someday too.

Speaking of telling the truth, everybody -- even proud House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- knows that, barring the unforeseen, numerous Democrats are going to get their liberal Bidens shot off in midterm House races on Nov. 2.

Wednesday night in one of those frank and candid -- meaning noisy -- White House meetings with Pelosi and aides, Obama promised to help House members as he has campaigned for the far more important Senate candidates, presumably more effectively than he did for Martha Coakley in Massachusetts last winter.

Joe Biden himself told a Baltimore fundraiser earlier this year that thanks to 2006 and 2008 election successes, his Democrats now hold many once-Republican House seats they had no business winning without the anti-Bush rancor and hopey-changey stuff.

And those districts’ voters, now frightened and disappointed, could well forsake their new Dem reps after enduring the first 22 of Obama’s 48 months of spending, oil-spill-watching, Guantanamo promise-breaking, border-securing, Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell non-ending and golfing.

Obama himself told a Boston fundraiser that 2010 was going to be a hard year. That’s politician for: ‘We need a lot more of your money again this time.’ But the hidden code really is: ‘It’s been great knowing some of you.’

Obama, of course, is in no danger; in fact, losing the House to Republicans this fall would be a scapegoat-providing boon for his long-term 2012 plans. But Rahm Emanuel, a chief architect of the 2006 successes, and the rest of the Windy City White House crew knew they had these overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress for only so long.

Why do you think the Real Good Talker’s beloved healthcare takeover was jumped to the front of the legislative line last year ahead of such minor issues as the economy, millions of lost jobs and something called deficits?

Because they knew a lot of these gullible House Democrats were going to join the unemployment line this fall. So, use ‘em while you got ‘em.

Current prognostications, district by district, have Democrats losing seats somewhere in the high 20s. That’s well above the historical average for first midterms and getting close to the magic 39 lost chairs that turn Pelosi into an ex-speaker pumpkin at midnight.

And recent polls, mentioned on The Ticket here and here and here, indicate that the momentum of voter unhappiness, dissatisfaction and downright anger is moving in the GOP’s direction with 16 weeks of more disappointing economic numbers to come.

Now, here’s the crucial part of Gibbs’ political gaffe: His words hurt the political money business.

As eager as every working American is to don a tux and chew hotel chicken in a ballroom where the keynote speaker is the size of a red ant without the immense video screen and fork over around 30-grand for the privilege of going through metal detectors to eat cold asparagus while hearing the same yada-yada they could read here for free an hour later, how likely are you to place that kind of folding money in a toilet that the president’s chief spokesman hints is about to be flushed?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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