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More Buyer’s Remorse–This Time from a Former Obama Campaign Advisor


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.

63 Responses

  1. I just read that. Glad you posted it. I really don’t know if what he said will do any good. O doesn’t mind disappointing people.

    • It probably won’t do any good, but at least we can see that people are waking up to the reality of Obama. It’s tragic that so many good and intelligent people were bamboozed by him.

      • It’s tragic that so many of what we THOUGHT were good and intelligent people were in reality neither.

        • I still think people like Jane Hamsher are intelligent. And to me Steve Hildebrand sounds like a good person who isn’t afraid to say what he thinks. We need more people like him in politics. He even says he won’t work for individual candidates anymore, because of this.

  2. 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

    Hildebrand is full of shit.

    The GOP blocked HillaryCare to prevent the Big Dawg from having a big policy victory. But the 1994 election was not about health care reform, it was about corruption in the Democratic Congress and Newt’s “Contract on America.”

    • The CDS is really pervasive among current and former Obots.

    • It was actually about Omnibus, which was a hugely progressive tax bill. BC spent his political capital on it knowing some blue dogs would lose their seats. He wasn’t a flippin coward.

    • I think that is what he meant. I guess you could be right that Hildeband hates the Clintons, but I don’t see the evidence.

      He doesn’t claim that the 1994 election was about health care. He said Repubs used the health care battle to “build a movement.” He thinks that Obama is headed for a big loss in 2010–not because of health care, but because Obama isn’t leading. At least that’s how I read the article.

      • Maybe you’re right – I just get annoyed when people misstate what happened back then, especially when they’re Democrats and should know better.

        The Big Dawg was the best damn POTUS during my lifetime but the Failbots hate him for some bizarre reason. I guess they don’t like peace and prosperity.

        • I understand, and you could be right. After all, he did work for Tom Daschle. But we do eventually need to join with some of these people. I could imagine working with this guy or with Jane Hamsher. Some people I will never trust again, like David Sirota and Jeralyn Merritt, some I would conditionally have some faith in. I’ll always be suspicious of all obots and former obots though.

        • Most of them were still wearing their diapers of dragging their blankies around when Bill was in the White House. Now they act like experts on “the Clinton years.”

    • Frankly, I think you don’t have it right either, MYIQ.

      The 1994 election was the triumph of conspiracism. The growth of the paranoid mind-set was insufficiently tracked in the media because the mainstream pundits had nothing but contempt for the kind of people who thought, for example, that Russian SPETZNAZ units were gathering at the Mexican border, or that Bill and Hillary were witches.

      But millions of people believed that stuff. The X-Files was on the air and IN the air. There was a general mood of paranoia and a consequent desire for the proverbial salvific knight on horseback.

      There’s a book you should read called “Death in Washington,” by Donald Freed and Fred Landis. It’s hard to find now, but worth the effort. The book is primarily about the death of Chilean statesman Orlando Letelier, but to me the most interesting chapter is the one titled “The Quartered Man,” which comes toward the end.

      That chapter details the media campaign and psy-war tactics used to convince the Chilean population that the entire nation had gone to hell under Allende. “The Quartered Man” was an urban legend about a man cut into four pieces supposedly found on the streets of Santiago. That was the first of an endless series of fake atrocity. Day after day there were new ones, spouting ever wilder tales of conspiracy.

      It was all a campaign designed by the CIA to destabilize the country.

      All through the 1993-1995 period, I kept flashing on that chapter. And I don’t think you can understand the weird shit that’s going on right now without reading about the “Quartered Man” campaign.

      • Sorry — I meant “fake atrocity tales.”

      • I recall talk about “Ruby Ridge,” “black helicopters” and markings on the back of road signs that would guide the UN army when it invaded. The militia movement was growing strong until Tim McVeigh discredited them.

        Somewhere in there G. Gordon Liddy was telling his listeners that when the “jack-booted” thugs came to arrest them they should shoot for the head because the government agents wore body armor.

        • It seems Mr. Liddy forgot all about that Myiq. Now he’s all about….Wave the flag and burn the fags…what a buttwipe!

  3. What happened to No Drama Obama? What happened to that tightly run ship? I wouldn’t put it past Axelrod to use Hildebrand to walk the left back to Obama. I’m not saying Hildebrand’s criticism of the admin isn’t genuine, but I’ll wait and see what he does next before coming to any conclusion.

  4. Thanks, BB, for presenting another voice that wants to hold Obama and Democrats accountable. Accountability isn’t only for schools and teachers……….

  5. Just made such a lovely comment on the new post and the new post went poof. It was quite a good one too. Dcat, what happened?

  6. Wow BB, your post got linked to by that blogstalking gay vaginaphobe in England who calls himself “spigot smasher”

    Doesn’t that make you feel special?

  7. He says “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”

    .Personally I am offended. I am a moderate Democrat, a centrist. I’m one of those people he says the progressives shouldn’t let win, shouldn’t be heard from, or acknowledged. As far as I am concerned, the party lost when the far left Progressives took over the party and coronated Obama. As this dude was one of the architects of that maneuver. He gets no sympathy from me.

  8. OMG, this is hysterical. This guy at Open Left wants to know what took Hildebrand so long!


    We knew what Obama was in January, 2008. Open Left was too busy drinking the Koolaid to actually find out about Obama.

    • Hey, the diarist woke up a day earlier, give him props for that.
      But when I first read this article I had the same reaction: “you mean, you didn’t pay attention last year to what Obama said??

  9. Grrrrrrrrrrr

    • Yeah the disenchanted apologists can go hope-change themselves if they want to blame this on people not putting enough pressure on him. Obama was the one who was supposed to be able to uniquely inspire us as a country and a world like no other ever in time. THAT was his signature issue before the media rebranded it as healthcare (which once he began talking about as president it became insurancecare as in care and concern for the welfare of the insurance companies).

      • Obama has made it clear a million times he’s not amenable to persuasion from the left. What would he suggest, ask W2 for tips on what would have worked with him and try them on W3?

        • I do not remember Dubya ever caving to Olbermann the way Obama just caved to Glenn Beck. Did the Bush White House ever actually tacitly or otherwise acknowledge anything Keith O said in his special comments?

        • This is how the “W” administration responded to criticism

          • Cheney also hurled obscenity on the Senate Floor.

          • A brief argument between Vice President Cheney and a senior Democratic senator led Cheney to utter a big-time obscenity on the Senate floor this week.

            On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney’s ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush’s judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

            “Fuck yourself,” said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.


    • By the way BB — great post. 🙂

    • Hildebrand warned that 2009 is shaping up to be “1993 all over again”

      What a crock.

      • speak it sistah!

      • I tried to look back and remembered some of the people who were in the administration of that “Republican” Bill Clinton:

        Robert Reich was Secretary of Labor and Joe Stiglitz was Clinton’s CEA.

        Just to stop there. Can Robert Reich imagine anybody as Liberal as Robert Reich in the Obama administration?
        Let’s not even get into Joe Stiglitz, a man recognized by his peers as THE top economist but he’s not allowed anywhere near the Obama economic policy because he’s too liberal.

    • If “we allow”

      WTF? Where does this “allow” crap come from? Like we can all magickally think “disallow” and the Dims will suddenly grow spines?

  10. I did not see him mention the President by name there. It sounds like its just the Democrat’s fault. No mention of his boss continuing the policies of George Bush. Now that makes me lose patience.

  11. BO is not a leader. Why is it that it is just now, supposedly he is coming up with his own HC legislation? Check his history. He’s always been a follower.

  12. If those statements by Hildebrand are supposed to be his “Hi I’m Steve and I’m an Obamakoolaidic” then he is going to have one hell of a long time sitting there on the first step of recovery.

  13. Idiot, imo. LGBT community was one of the first ones under the bus. If he is a community leader he sure didn’t practice due diligence before backing BO.

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