Did Barack Obama encourage Blue Dog Democrats to abandon the stimulus bill in the House?  That’s the claim of Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper, who told Liberadio Sunday that Obama encouraged him to vote against the bill. Cooper says that Obama knows it’s a “messy bill”, and wants a purer stimulus package. Cooper also says that Democratic leadership has treated its members like “mushrooms”, a reference to a pungent joke:

The joke Cooper references says that people should treat a particular group of people — I’ve heard reporters and management among them — like mushrooms: feed them BS and keep them in the dark. Cooper accuses Pelosi and his party’s leadership of doing just that in this interview. At one point, he says that Pelosi and her clique “live in fear” that their members will actually start reading the bills Pelosi & Co shove down their throats.

But that’s not the big news in this interview.  Some have speculated that Barack Obama would have to go to war with Nancy Pelosi if he really wanted to push for bipartisanship on Capitol Hill.  The stimulus package was the first and most critical piece of Obama’s domestic agenda, and Pelosi not only blocked Republicans from negotiating its terms, she filled it with non-stimulus spending that turned it into an omnibus appropriation bill, full of objectionable projects and embarrassing components, like contraceptive spending.

Small wonder that Obama might have taken offense to Pelosi’s ham-handed tactics and decided to respond in kind.  If Cooper’s on the level, and I’m not sure why he’d lie about this, Obama might become a factor in a growing rebellion against the imperious Speaker and could help push her out —  if enough Democratic House members get tired of the mushroom treatment.

Update: Kleinheider has the inevitable Cooper walkback:

At no point did any member of President Obama’s staff encourage me to vote against the House economic recovery bill. I told them I believed that the bill had too much long-term spending and didn’t meet the president’s goal of getting 75% of the money into the economy within 18 months. After the conversation, I felt encouraged that the administration understood those concerns and shared my longstanding commitment to fiscal responsibility.

Well, read again what he actually told Liberadio and see how the two statements can be reconciled.  They can’t.  Translation: the White House told him to “clarify”.