After weeks of smooth sailing and cooing press coverage, the Obama team has been buffeted by a round of troubles, goofs and harsh reaction, much of that coming from Obama’s own party. Politico reviewed the wreckage:
- Obama ended his troubled search for CIA director by naming Leon Panetta. The immediate response: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) fired off a statement of disapproval, giving a negative tilt to most coverage of the pick.
- Obama floated his plan to name TV star Dr. Sanjay Gupta as surgeon general. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers didn’t even wait for the official announcement before leading a public campaign to kill the nomination. Gupta “lacks the relevant experience,” Conyers wrote to colleagues.
- As Obama makes plans to roll out a sweeping economic plan, Majority Leader Harry Reid gave interviews with Politico and The Hill newspaper and made clear he won’t take marching orders from Obama. “I don’t work for” Obama, he told us.
- Even before Obama’s plan was formally unveiled, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made plain her displeasure with parts of Obama’s emerging fiscal plan, which she believes does not move fast enough to raise taxes. “I couldn’t be more clear,” she said Thursday at her weekly news conference. “Put me down as one in favor of repeal [of the Bush tax cuts] as soon as possible.”
- Finally, once the package was unveiled, Obama’s adviser got a frosty response to some provisions from Senate Democrats, who were kind enough to go public with their concerns. “I just don’t think it works. I don’t think that’s going to give much lift to the economy, as well intended as it is,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, told Politico’s David Rogers.
And that list didn’t include the hasty retreat on Roland Burris or the embarrassing Bill Richardson withdrawal. Beltway media dean David Broder declares that the president-elect has taken a “drubbing” from these incidents. Broder finds that “after a near-perfect month of transition operations, Obama has stumbled twice in two weeks, first being caught unaware by the investigation of Bill Richardson, his choice for commerce secretary, and then being outmaneuvered by Burris and his tawdry sponsor, Gov. Rod Blagojevich.”
It seems that the transition from campaigning to governing may not be as easy as Obama and his media fan club imagined. And things will only get tougher. There are two main challenges on the immediate horizon — either one of which can bring what is left of the honeymoon to an abrupt end.
Next week, the Senate will hold the confirmation hearing of attorney general nominee Eric Holder. This is shaping up to be one contentious outing as Sen. Arlen Specter and other Republicans prepare to delve into Holder’s involvement with the Marc Rich and Puerto Rican terrorist pardons and the Elian Gonzales affair. It’s not his legal views which are most at issue, but his character. And if Democrats and Republicans alike get the sense that Holder has played fast and loose with Justice Department guidelines, ethical standard and even with their colleagues (in his testimony during the 2001 Congressional probe of the Rich pardon, for example) Holder may have a sticky time getting out of the Senate Judiciary Committee (which may have a 9-9 split between the parties).