Wednesday, December 09, 2009

potus' lip poked out...,

The Hill | President Barack Obama recently called Rep. John Conyers Jr. to express his frustrations with the Judiciary Committee chairman’s criticism.

In an interview with The Hill, Conyers said his opinions of Obama’s policies on healthcare reform and the war in Afghanistan have not sat well with the president.

According to the lawmaker, the president picked up the phone several weeks ago to find out why Conyers was “demeaning” him.

Obama’s decision to challenge Conyers highlights a sensitivity to criticism the president has taken on the left. Conyers’s critical remarks, many of which have been reported on the liberal-leaning Huffington Post, appear to have irritated the president, known for his calm demeanor.

Conyers, the second-longest-serving member of the House, said, “[Obama] called me and told me that he heard that I was demeaning him and I had to explain to him that it wasn’t anything personal, it was an honest difference on the issues. And he said, ‘Well, let’s talk about it.’”

Sitting in the Judiciary Committee’s conference room two days after Obama delivered his speech on Afghanistan, the 23-term lawmaker said he wasn’t in the mood to “chat.”

Obama’s move to send in 30,000 troops to Afghanistan by the summer of 2010 has clearly disappointed Conyers.

He said he intends to press his case in writing soon.

“I want something so serious that he has to respond in writing, like I am responding in writing to him,” he said.

“Calling in generals and admirals to discuss troop strength is like me taking my youngest to McDonald’s to ask if he likes french fries,” Conyers said.

Many on the left have argued that military leaders routinely respond to crises by calling for more troops.

“I’ve been saying I don’t agree with him on Afghanistan, I think he screwed up on healthcare reform, on Guantánamo and kicking Greg off,” Conyers said, referring to the departure of former White House counsel Greg Craig.

Craig was a leading proponent in the White House of closing the terrorist detention center at Guantánamo Bay and releasing photos of detainees undergoing torture. Closing the military prison has proven to be politically difficult, and Obama reversed field on the photos, opting not to make them publicly available.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

The liberal Conyers has been an outspoken proponent of a single-payer healthcare system and a critic of U.S. involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He has also been at odds with White House policy on extending expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, crafting legislation that is to the left of the Senate’s version.

Obama and Conyers have a complicated and nuanced relationship.