I’ve written plenty about Barack Obama’s regulatory adventurism and his attempt to impose his political agenda by conducting end-arounds of Congress. The massive expansion of regulation has strangled business, I’ve argued, and stifled economic growth. You know who agrees with me? Barack Obama’s right-hand man in the White House. In a meeting with the National Association of Manufacturers, William Daley didn’t mount a very impressive defense of his boss’ regulatory adventurism — and in fact conceded that no defense was possible (via Jim Treacher):
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley took heat from business executives Thursday for the Obama administration’s regulatory expansions. Daley also said he didn’t have any good answers for some of what President Obama is doing and expressed frustration about the “bureaucratic stuff that’s hard to defend.”
“Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible,” Daley said at a National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) meeting.
Daley couldn’t answer basic questions and continually faced criticism from the executives in the room. The business leaders even applauded each other’s criticism of the administration. “At one point, the room erupted in applause when Massachusetts utility executive Doug Starrett, his voice shaking with emotion, accused the administration of blocking construction on one of his facilities to protect fish, saying government ‘throws sand into the gears of progress,’” wrote Peter Wallsten and Jia Lynn Yang in the Washington Post.
The Washington Post attempted to put the best spin on this meeting:
Mary Andringa, head of NAM, described the meeting as “constructive” and was “quite pleased” that Daley devoted more than an hour to the group’s concerns.
But some business executives in the room said they were unimpressed by the White House’s attempts to woo industry.
“We think there’s a thin facade by the administration to say the right things, but they don’t come close to doing things,” said Barney T. Bishop III, chief executive of the business group Associated Industries of Florida. He called the efforts to streamline regulations “immaterial.”
“We love the platitudes, but we want to see action,” Bishop said.
The communications director for Americans for Limited Government called the meeting “Jedi tricks” and said that Daley’s attempt to defuse private-sector anger shows just how vulnerable Obama is in 2012. Fred Wszolek from the Workforce Fairness Institute interpreted “indefensible” at least in part as a reference to the NLRB’s fight with Boeing over its plans to move production to South Carolina. Wszolek wondered how Daley can continue serving in an administration whose actions Daley admits are “indefensible”?
Something tells me that Wszolek won’t have to worry about it for long. Obama hired Daley to mollify the business community. Instead, he just endorsed their well-founded complaints and practically wrote an ad for the eventual Republican nominee to run every day between the convention and the general election in 2012. “Even Obama’s chief of staff says that his regulatory expansion is indefensible,” the ad will read, set to a series of images of plant closings and unemployment lines. “Shouldn’t we put an end to it in November?”
One final thought: I’ll bet this quote will make for lively breakfast conversation over at Netroots Nation.