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Liberals blast Obama for pivoting to center; Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel draws fire

January 26, 2010 |  8:05 am

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel listing to a speech by President Obama Dec. 19, 2009
The White House, sobered by the election results from Massachusetts, is pivoting to the center.

The latest evidence: a proposed freeze on discretionary spending that is unrelated to the military veterans, homeland security and international affairs. President Obama plans to unveil the budget cap, meant as a down payment on the $1.4-trillion deficit, in his State of the Union address Wednesday night.

But the left is furious, seeing abandonment of its principles; some would say entitlements. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow called the budget freeze "completely, completely insane," comparing it to a flawed attempt to put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it. is organizing "Emergency Rallies for Democratic Backbone" today to encourage the White House to "show some backbone -- starting with passage of the healthcare reform bill." The liberal grass-roots group also has a petition up on its site encouraging supporters to "Save the Clean Air Act," likewise endangered by the stunning upset in Massachusetts by Republican Scott Brown that robbed Democrats of their 60-vote super-majority in the Senate.

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Liberals are directing some of their fire at White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Cenk Uygur, host of a left-wing talk show called The Young Turks, calls Emanuel "Barack Obama's Dick Cheney." Amid rumors that Emanuel is eying a race for mayor of Chicago, in the Wall Street Journal former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta notes that taking flak for a president is part of the role of chief of staff.

For their part, conservatives aren't cutting the president any slack either. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain this morning endorsed the spending freeze -- but warned that Obama will have to do more.

"We need to do it," McCain told "Good Morning America's" new anchor George Stephanopoulos. "I think it's important and I'll support it. But the president has to promise to veto bills that are laden with pork barrel spending."

And an aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner demonstrated vividly the problems Obama will have in trying to please both liberals and conservatives, likening the proposed White House budget freeze to "going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; credit: Associated Press

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