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WH Chief of Staff: Obama Administration’s First Three Years Have Been “Brutal”

In an interview with Politico’s [1] Roger Simon, White House chief of staff Bill Daley referred to the first three years of the Obama administration as “brutal” and blamed Democrats as well as Republicans for preventing Obama from being a real chief executive.

Daley even tried to crack a joke about the President’s low poll numbers but it sounded more like a truism than a joke.

“Considering the debacle that he came in with, the tough choices he’s made and how there have been few, if any breaks, he says it himself all the time,” Daley says. “He doesn’t know why he’s as high as 44 percent.”

Daley then explained why the numbers have fallen from their post-election highs.

That is due to many factors, Daley says, and he starts reeling them off: trying to stimulate the economy; trying to save the auto industry; trying to increase the debt ceiling; passing health care legislation; fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; and dealing with Syria, North Korea, Egypt and Iran. To name a few.

In other words it was harder to govern than they expected.

“It’s been a brutal three years,” he says. “It’s been a very, very difficult three years, an incredible three years. And we are doing all this under the overhang of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. F—k! It wasn’t like all this was happening in good times.”

“But good times — well, better times — are possible before November 2012,” said Roger Simon in Politico. “And all President Obama has to do to achieve this is make a startling end run around not just the Republicans but also the Democrats in Congress.”

An end run around the Democrats in Congress? That probably won’t sit well with Nancy Pelosi and especially Harry Reid, who as Senate majority leader controls one half of Congress.

So while the President has been going around the country blaming Republicans for not passing his bills, he is also frustrated with the Democrats but doesn’t want the voters to know that.

This frank talk by Daley forced the White House to go into a little bit of damage control at the White House press briefing on Friday when press secretary Jay Carney was quizzed about the interview.

Q:    In an interview published today, Bill Daley said, “On the domestic side, both Democrats and Republicans have really made it very difficult for the President to be anything like a chief executive.” What have Democrats done to make that difficult?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Bill was speaking, I think, broadly about Presidents and Congress, but there’s no question that Democrats haven’t agreed — or some Democrats haven’t agreed with every position the President has taken on every issue.  We certainly saw that during the debt ceiling crisis, where the President was willing to make some political — some tough choices that would have been challenges for him within his own party in the effort to get a grand bargain with the Speaker of the House.

But let’s make no mistake here.  Let’s be clear about what the overwhelming obstacle here is to getting things done that the American people want, and that is understood by the Chief of Staff, the Vice President, the President, everybody else here.  The obstacle to getting things done that the American people want done on the economy and jobs has been congressional Republicans.

The kinds of things that we put forward to Congress to put Americans back to work and grow the economy were designed specifically with the hope that they could draw bipartisan support, because they’re the kinds of measures that have gained bipartisan support in the past.  Republicans made a decision, clearly, that we hope will be reversed at some point, that their primary objective wasn’t to help the American people get back to work, to grow the American economy — their number-one priority as stated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was to make President Obama a one-term President.  That makes getting action out of Congress on the domestic side of the ledger quite difficult, when you have a Congress like we do, which is controlled by the House — controlled by Republicans in the House and where Republicans have the capacity to block anything in the Senate.

Q:    And does the President agree with Bill Daley’s description of the first three years of his administration as, “ungodly” and “brutal”?

MR. CARNEY:  Bill, as all of you who know him, is — can be very candid and clear in his language.  There is no question that when this President took office in January of 2009, we were in an ungodly, bad situation economically.  The economy was in free fall.  We now know that in the fourth quarter of 2008, the quarter that ended three weeks before he became President, the economy shrank by 9 percent — 8.9 percent — the most significant contraction of the economy since the Great Depression.  We lost, because of this recession, 8 million jobs  — terrible, terrible job loss.  So that was a pretty ungodly situation.

And we’ve been taking — this President has been taking steps, making decisions ever since he took office, to try to dig us out — rather, to climb out of the hole that was dug by this recession.  And a lot of those decisions were tough.  Some of them were unpopular at the time, but they’ve proven to be the right decisions.  And so I think that is precisely what Mr. Daley was describing.

Never mind that the Obama administration had a Democrat-controlled Congress for their first two years in office, it’s still the Republican’s fault.

Daley’s remarks obviously made the White House a little uncomfortable, as he was closer to the truth than they want to publicly admit. His remarks implied that the real blame for the President’s problems belongs to the President himself and the Democrats in Congress.