Ben Smith has a new story at Politico about recent remarks by Steve Hildebrand, who was deputy campaign manager of Obama’s 2008 campaign for the presidency. Hildebrand told Politico that he is “losing patience” with his former boss.
Obama, he said, “needs to be more bold in his leadership.”
“I’m not going to just sit by the curb and let these folks get away with a lack of performance for the American people,” he said, speaking of Washington’s Democratic leadership as a whole. “I want change just as much as a majority of Americans do, and I’m one of the many Americans who are losing patience.”
Apparently, Hildebrand’s dissatisfaction with Obama began during the campaign itself.
Hildebrand was a key player in the primary campaign but grew increasingly alienated from the organization over, a person close to him said, strategic differences. Other top campaign officials grew frustrated with what they saw as Hildebrand’s at times negative attitude and his candid comments to the press, rare in the intensely disciplined campaign.
Still, he remains close to some top Obama aides, and his blast from the left is a mark of the depth of dissent even within elements of the organization that elected the first black president. His public comments are “nothing I haven’t directly said to folks in the White House,” Hildebrand told POLITICO in an interview from his native South Dakota, where he came to prominence running former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s political operation.
Hildebrand’s criticisms of Obama came during a speech he gave to San Diego Democratic Club on August 22, and was first reported by Mark Gabrish Conlan ofZenger’s Newmagazine on September 2.
Introducing Steve Hildebrand….at the predominantly Queer San Diego Democratic Club’s Freedom Awards August 22,…San Diego Democratic Party chair Jess Durfee said he’d been described as “the Gay person Obama listens to and the Gay person closest to the President.” When Hildebrand actually took the podium, he snapped, “The problem is Obama isn’t listening enough” — setting the tone for a slashing attack on Obama and the Democratic officeholders in Congress for failing to advance progressive causes and letting Republicans and so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats set the agenda for the country.
“This is my President, this is our President,” Hildebrand said of Obama, the man he helped put in the White House. “I love him, I love Michelle, I want him to succeed, but all of us need to put pressure on him and Congress to do the right things. The American people put confidence in the Democrats because they thought we could get things done, and if we fail, they’re not going to give it back.” He made it clear that he fears the Republicans will be able to return to power in 2010 and 2012 unless the Democrats put through a progressive agenda now — not only on Queer issues but on health care, the economy, global warming and the other issues Obama promised “change” on in 2008.
Hildebrand told Politico’s Ben Smith that his remarks weren’t really a “slashing attack,” but they sound pretty harsh to me. Here’s a little bit more:
Hildebrand warned that 2009 is shaping up to be “1993 all over again” — the year the Republicans fueled voter anger over a Democratic plan to reform health insurance and built a movement that ended the 42-year Democratic majority in the House and took the Senate as well — unless the Democrats get their act together and enact a progressive program that will give people a reason to vote for them. He criticized not only the “Blue Dogs” and Senate moderates but also Pelosi and Reid for not keeping them in line and getting them to support and vote for progressive bills.
“We all lose as a party if we allow the moderates and the Blue Dogs to continue” setting the agenda for the party, Hildebrand explained. “The Republicans are loving it, and they should. When are we going to start standing up to these people? Tell [Pelosi and Reid] to start leading and holding the 52 Blue Dogs accountable. You’re either a Democrat or not. I view [the ‘Blue Dog’ movement] as cowardly, calculating and standing in the way of equality. We have to hold these people — and the President — accountable. We need leadership in the party. I’m not helping these people anymore.”
As recently as May, 2009, Hildebrand was, at least publicly, still in the Obama camp. He gave a speech entitled ‘The Obama Vision: Equality for All’ at a Gay and Lesbian Pride Month at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The speech was promoted in the linked article as follows:
“The election of President Obama was a major landmark in civil rights equality in the United States,” said Hildebrand, the openly gay deputy director of President Obama’s historic campaign. He maintains that President Obama and his supporters, especially voters of the “Millennial Generation” between the ages of 18 and 29, see it as their mission to bring the equality movement, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights (LGBT) to the forefront of the nation’s political agenda.
At Brookhaven, Hildebrand will update the audience on what the nation can expect from the Obama administration on the LGBT civil rights front. He will also discuss how the marriage-equality issue will play out nationwide and analyze how the Millennial Generation and their push for change will impact the future of the civil rights movement for all Americans.
It seems to me that Hildebrand took quite awhile to wake up to the fact that Obama is no friend of gays and lesbians–or of civil rights for that matter. But better late than never. I’m glad he’s speaking up. Now that the story has hit the mainstream, I expect that Obama and Axelrod will throw Hildebrand under the bus with the rest of us old, menopausal bitter knitters. Hildebrand sounds pretty gutsy though. Let’s hope we hear a lot more from him.