As much as Barack Obama promised a new era of transparency in Washington, there are still plenty of activities reporters can't attend. In a Monday story on Obama trying to keep his liberal base happy, Washington Post reporter Peter Wallsten explained:
Much of the White House's interaction with liberal groups has taken place at a weekly Tuesday meeting at a downtown Washington hotel. The "common purpose" gatherings are closed-door sessions between top Obama aides and officials from dozens of left-leaning interest groups such as unions, youth voting groups, women's organizations, gay rights advocates and civil rights activists. Attendees are required to keep all proceedings secret and off the record.
This would sound like a carbon copy of Grover Norquist's weekly off-the-record meetings at the Washington offices of Americans for Tax Reform -- although Team Bush sent its liaison to conservatives more often than "top aides." (And meeting in hotels could sound more like...an Eliot Spitzer business transaction.) But in some news reports, that's been presented as a distasteful exercise in back-room plotting. Wallsten also found that the most disenchanted group of "liberals" (obviously too weak a term) are the bloggers:
Another liberal movement leader, Daily Kos blog founder Markos Moulitsas, said he "long ago" cut off contact with the White House. "It's clear that they want to double down on their capitulation strategy," he said in an e-mail...
Some liberals have criticized the gatherings, saying the White House uses the sit-downs to steer the left instead of taking its advice. Jane Hamsher, publisher of the liberal Fire Dog Lake blog, has likened the meeting to being in a "veal pen."