* Obama will fight left if needed - White House
* Progressives never came up with alternative to tax pact
By Alister Bull
WASHINGTON, Dec 17 President Barack Obama will
not duck a fight with his liberal base to advance policies he
thinks make sense, the White House said on Friday, after
passage of a tax bill that enraged the left wing of his party.
Acknowledging a new political reality after Democrats lost
control of the House of Representatives on election day, the
White House gave no sign he now feels he must mend fences with
progressives. Rather, many see Obama taking a more centrist
"In terms of patching things up, I think that this is a
president who is going to make decisions on what is best for
the country, what is best for the economy," Gibbs told
reporters at the White House. "And that's going to mean that
there will be times at which we will draw the line and we will
have big fights on this."
Gibbs did, however, voice cautious optimism that a ban on
gays serving openly in military will be repealed, meeting a
goal many on the left have sought for years and that Obama has
pushed Congress hard to end.
The president was also meeting labor leaders on Friday to
discuss spurring the fragile U.S. economy. The labor movement,
which has voiced concern over the tax deal, was a core part of
the constituency that helped him win the White House in 2008.
A Gallop poll showed on Thursday that Obama's popularity
among liberal Democrats has taken a hit since he brokered the
tax-extension pact with Republicans. Although still high, it
dipped below 80 percent for the first time in the week after
the deal was cut, standing at 79 percent from 88 percent in
Obama will need as much congressional help as possible next
year as he confronts Republicans over spending cuts and the tax
code to tackle the U.S. budget deficit and rising debts.
RICH TAX BREAKS
Many liberals are livid after Congress approved the
two-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts, as well as hard-won
concessions on unemployment benefits and aid for students and
families that Democrats had sought.
"This bill is largely a mish-mash of rejected Republican
ideas that cost too much to accomplish too little," said Rep.
Lloyd Doggett, echoing many in his Democratic party who are
angry over the extension of tax breaks for wealthier
Obama had wanted taxes on U.S. families making more than
$250,000 to rise next year. But Democrats had been unable to
get that through Congress and the White House said it had
obtained the best deal it could with the votes in hand.
This did not mollify progressive public advocacy group
MoveOn.Org, which is running a You Tube advertisement to "bring
back the Obama of 2008 - the tough, smart progressive who
inspired millions." The group called the package a millionaire
Gibbs noted the bill was passed by a massive majority in
the Senate and supported by many Democrats in the House.
He said the liberal left had never explained an alternative
way to preserve the extension of jobless benefits and other aid
to students and families that Obama secured through his pact
"What was the alternative path here? So we do this for
three-and-a-half weeks. Everyone's taxes go up. Everybody then
consequently gets blamed -- rightly so -- by the American
people," Gibbs said.
(Additional reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by Philip