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Why did the Obama administration stay out of Wisconsin?

By SAM HANANEL
March 13, 2011

Supporters of Wisconsin's 14 Democratic State Senators that recently spent more than three weeks in Illinois protesting Wisconsin Governor Walker's controversial budget repair bill cheer as the group returns to the Wisconsin State Capitol Saturday, March 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart)

Union leaders urged Vice President Joe Biden during a White House meeting last month to go to Wisconsin and rally the faithful in their fight against Gov. Scott Walker’s move to curtail collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

Request rebuffed, they asked for Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

So far, however, the White House has stayed away from any trips to Madison, the state capital, or other states in the throes of union battles. The Obama administration is treading carefully on the contentious political issue that has led to a national debate over the power that public sector unions wield in negotiating wages and benefits.

A few labor leaders have complained openly that President Barack Obama is ignoring a campaign pledge he made to stand with unions; most others say his public comments have been powerful enough.

The stakes are high as Obama looks toward a grueling re-election campaign. Republicans have begun airing television ads linking Obama to “union bosses” standing in the way of budget cuts in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states.

As a candidate, Obama seemed to promise more to organized labor, among the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies.

“If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself,” Obama said at a speech in 2007. “I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”

Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest nurses union, called Obama “largely a bystander” in the debate over collective bargaining. “I think we’re feeling a sense of betrayal from him and not liking it much,” she said.

Doug Schoen, a Democratic political strategist, said Obama’s strategy seems to be “keep your distance, avoid direct engagement, say most of the right things most of the time, and hope for resolution through sources other than your own.”

Walker on Friday signed a bill that strips most collective bargaining rights from the state’s public workers, except police and firefighters. The measure passed the Legislature following more than three weeks of protests that drew tens of thousands of people to the state Capitol in opposition. The governor had announced his plan on Feb. 11, saying his state was broke and there was no point negotiating with the unions when there was nothing to offer.

The request for Biden to travel to Wisconsin came from Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, according to two union officials familiar with the Feb. 24 meeting. The officials requested anonymity because the meeting was private.

Five days later, during the AFL-CIO winter meeting, McEntee told Obama senior adviser David Plouffe that unions wanted more than words, the officials said. McEntee told Plouffe they wanted a high-profile emissary to stand with protesters to show that the president was by their side.

A spokesman for McEntee, Gregory King, declined comment on the substance of the private meetings, but said the union is “pleased with the support we’ve received from the Obama administration.”

Biden’s press secretary, Elizabeth Alexander, declined to elaborate on Biden’s discussions with union leaders or say why he had not gone to Madison. She said Biden was “obviously very supportive” of labor, had a long history of fighting for collective bargaining rights and, along with Obama, has been “very involved in what has been going on in Wisconsin both privately and publicly from day one.”

Obama has called Walker’s proposal an “assault on unions” and urged governors not to vilify public workers. After the state Senate relied on a procedural move Thursday to pass the anti-bargaining rights measure without any Democrats in the chamber, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama believes it is wrong for Wisconsin to use its budget troubles “to denigrate or vilify public sector employees.”

Solis also pledged her support for public employees on a phone call with thousands of members of the Communications Workers of America.

“Budget sacrifices are one thing but, demanding that workers give up their voice is another,” Solis told the union members.

But asked whether Solis would go to Wisconsin or any other state where protesters are rallying, spokesman Carl Fillichio said she’s “keeping an eye on the situation.”

DeMoro, from the nurses’ union, has been reminding Obama about his 2007 campaign promise to walk with union members. She has even sent out press releases offering to buy the president a pair of shoes to march with demonstrators.

“Standing with the embattled workers would be an important symbol,” DeMoro said.

There’s no question that Obama will keep getting strong re-election support from organized labor. But he stands the risk that unions won’t be as enthusiastic if he is too aloof about the attack on bargaining rights. On the other hand, it’s possible that unions will be so consumed with their own efforts to save bargaining rights, recall governors or other issues of self-preservation that they won’t have the time to work on Obama’s behalf with full vigor.

Schoen, the Democratic consultant, said Obama is “trying to have it both ways.”

If the budget-cutting tactics of Walker and GOP Gov. John Kasich of Ohio are successful, Obama doesn’t want to be seen as aggressively taking sides, Schoen said. If they fail, the president can say he was always on the side of the unions.

Most union leaders have praised Obama in public for offering support with his words. Some believe it may be better for him to stay out so Republicans can’t claim the protests are being organized in a grand political move.

“Obama needed to hang back and let people fully understand this is being run by the people of Wisconsin, not by the Democratic Party leadership,” said Greg Junemann, president of the International Federal of Professional and Technical Engineers.

Both parties already are using Wisconsin to try to boost their political fortunes.

Crossroads GPS, a group organized by former Bush advisers Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, announced this past week that it would spend $750,000 on national cable television ads supporting Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday set a goal of raising $100,000 in 24 hours from angry voters opposing the Wisconsin legislation.

___

Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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13 Responses to Why did the Obama administration stay out of Wisconsin?

  1. bmclellan

    March 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Mr President meant ” FLIP FLOPS ” when he vowed to don those comfortable shoes.
    This turkey backs up so fast he’s behind himself before he even starts.

  2. Fivebyfives

    March 13, 2011 at 10:27 am

    The title of the article begs this question: what would a Prime Minister Obama have told the British people in the darkest days of World War II? So, to paraphrase (and butcher) Sir Winston Churchill, here is a sample:

    “We will flag and might fail. We probably won’t go to the end. We won’t fight in France; we won’t fight on the seas and oceans. We should not fight with growing confidence and strength, as this may offend our opponents ( we don’t have enemies; enemies are for those who don’t see the big picture). We will not defend our nation, no matter the consequences (as long as it favors my poll numbers.) We shall not fight on the beaches, the landing grounds, the fields, or the streets.

    I have already surrendered.”

    • Carl Nemo

      March 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      Good analogy Fivebyfives and the reason is the “deep pockets” contributors to politicians are business interests that are ultimately owned by the shadowy oligarchs who want to turn earth into their “Plantation Planet”.

      Serfs; ie., public service employees as well as any other working individual has no rights under such a paradigm. We best know who our betters are.

      Obama is a synthesized entity. Seemingly he and his family have had ties to the CIA. Someone along the way realized the guy has talent as a extremely smooth-talking orator, so he was specifically groomed to ‘seize the day’ as President, when necessary post a national raping on behalf of the Bush/Cheney era. They activated him and tasked him with a ‘mission’ that was planned years ahead. They may have more of his type in the wings as pretenders to the throne as we move along in presidential politics. With the MSM, now the absolute “Fourth Estate”, but not in a good sense are used to program the unwashed masses towards slick-talking characters such as Obama. Even if McCain had won, they own his butt too. Besides McCain represents the ‘flagship’ party.

      Unfortunately, Obama is more of the same and worse after promising ‘change we can believe in’. We are now both witnessing and suffering under that for which he was groomed; ie., simply a holding President, no different than a Jimmy Carter between ‘flagship party’ incumbencies of the Republicans. Twenty of the past thirty years have been held by the ‘rethugs’ and nothing good has happened on their watch except massively running up the public debt; the first 9 trillion or so. When Ronald Reagan/H.W. Bush took office the public debt was 880 billion, now it’s 14.5 times as much.

      Now with Obama having been given the torch; he’s seemingly turbocharging the process; ie., his mission, destroy the United States of America financially and for all time! Using your parody of Winston Churchill’s writing it seems Obama’s purpose in office is to sacrifce this nation on the unholy altar of globalism run amuck. He’s nothing but a running dog for the interests of the New World Order, who’s planners are hellbent on ramming their paradigm down our collective throats. : |

      Carl Nemo **==

  3. Rick moss

    March 13, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Wake up people. Demcrats and republicans can’t fix our government or themsleves.

    JOIN THE REVOLUTION
    Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( http://www.revolution2.osixs.org )

    We don’t have to live like this anymore. “Spread the News”
    FIGHT THE CAUSE – NOT THE SYMPTOM

    • Almandine

      March 13, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      A la morpheus?

      • b mcclellan

        March 13, 2011 at 11:50 pm

        Carefully tie your symptoms when binding to the cause of mutual understanding of powerlessness.
        You will be a cook Okay
        Programmer single trade falsetto.
        Little to no singularity beguiles disguise
        lost art is no longer fire..

        Extinguish the art of truthful Statesmanship in arugula fashion.
        Words escape, meaning lends to all manner, perceptions..

        Tell a lie to become one a burner,
        send someone to dodge a bullet without good reason
        Welcome to Hell, Man of te People… Hack..

      • Carl Nemo

        March 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm

        Hi Almandine,

        I’ve noticed with recent posts of mine that it’s followed up by “Join the Revolution” SPAM, first by ‘morpheus’, the same followed by other ‘sponsors’ of the same link material.

        Seemingly their movement has found their grounding rod in my writings with me being their… Carl ‘Neo”…no?

        I’ve read the site material and although well-written and clinging to traditions in terms of Constitutional and founders principles of yore; I.E., our duty to cast off corrupt government; there seems to be a disconnect in terms of thinking that our terminally corrupt regime will hand over power to a bunch of eloquent malcontents still clinging to quaint 18th century principles based on “The Age of Enlightenment” along with its both heady and articulate sponsors of such liberating thought.

        As Chairman Mao wrote in his “Little Red Book”, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” so too much blood will have to be spilled to overturn the order of the day and rid our government of usurpers that have turned this land into their private franchise for stealing from the citizenry.

        Entrenched czars, kings, dictators, presidents or simply political criminals in high places don’t give up easily.

        It took the Russian people many years of incredible hardship and grief to finally cast off the Czar against the failed attempt to do so by “The Decemberists” almost 100 years earlier in their history until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

        http://english.pravda.ru/news/society/14-12-2001/25127-0/

        It will take the blood of both peasant patriots and tyrants to refertilize the “Tree of Liberty” again…paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Almandine

          March 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

          Hi Carl…

          I’ve read much of it too, and I agree it’s largely unworkable, but it’s hardly something Jefferson would countenance. Especially the author’s 2nd bill of “rights” which reads much more like some socialist manifesto. A few of those rights:

          ……………..The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

          The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

          The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from “unfair” competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad. (my quote)

          The right of every family to a decent home.

          The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

          The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

          The right to be freely retrained when the system can no longer provide work in your given field…………………..

          The author is certainly afraid s/he can’t make a go of life on his/her own
          without some kind of cradle-to-grave nanny, and if first looks are any indication, s/he’s right.

          • Carl Nemo

            March 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm

            I read on too and after a bit it became a mental ‘root canal’ at least speaking for myself.

            Evidently the writers of their manifesto have never heard the old Russian proverb…”life is hard then you die”… : |

            Carl Nemo **==

  4. woody188

    March 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    The President sent his political arm “Organizing for America” instead so that he can curry favor with independents and those on the right in 2012. He isn’t worried about support from those on the left as they will mainly vote for Obama in opposition to whoever is run against him.

    • NightWisp

      March 15, 2011 at 6:25 am

      As President Reagan said.. ” I did not leave the Democrat Party. It left me”

      The Independents/ Tea Party members are the NEW Conservative Party ( formerly called the Republican Party)

      The Republican Party of today is the old Democrat Party as it used to be.

      Today’s Liberal/Democrat Party is the resurrection of the old Marxist/Communist Party. Wake up and smell the coffee democrats. Saul Alinsky would be proud of your thuggery and mafia style tactics aka Chicago politics.

      • Almandine

        March 15, 2011 at 9:05 am

        Excellent.

  5. NightWisp

    March 15, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Outside the ten square mile confines of Washington DC. The fraud -in-chief of the CORPORATION of the United States of America ( as incorporated in the state of Delaware) has no authority over any American citizen. No more than 3 M or GE, or GM. His decisions only affect his corporation. He has no authority outside DC. He has no authority over the Governors of each individual State. It is that little 10th Amendment thingy.