about faces

Steve Hildebrand Put Obama In the White House. Now He’s Attacking Him


As Barack Obama‘s deputy campaign chairman, Steve Hildebrand helped put the man in the White House. Now, he’s got a new job: the president’s loudest new critic.

Hildebrand, the Democratic political strategist who once called Obama “a different kind of politician,” wasn’t just charged with helping lead Obama’s general campaign for the masses, but specifically went after the gay vote. Makes sense, Hildebrand being gay and all.

Except Obama’s one-time right hand man is now turning against him. For all the right reasons.

Last seen trying to take some heat off the White House by encouraging LGBTs to focus on their representatives in Congress, Hildebrand used the podium Queer San Diego Democratic Club’s Freedom Awards to sandbag Obama for the very thing you’d expect: his failure to keep his commitment to LGBT Americans.

“The problem is Obama isn’t listening enough,” says Hildebrand. “This is my President, this is our President. I love him, I love Michelle, I want him to succeed, but all of us need to put pressure on him and Congress to do the right things. The American people put confidence in the Democrats because they though we could get things done, and if we fail, they’re not going to give it back.”


But it wasn’t just the president on his hit list. The Hill got its own lashing: “There are a lot of Blue Dogs in the House and moderate Democrats in the Senate who are standing in the way of getting things done. I gave up a lot to elect Democrats, and I expect them to give it up for me. I’m going to speak loudly. The Republicans don’t have power unless the moderates and the Blue Dogs give it to them — which is what they’re doing now. … We all lose as a party if we allow the moderates and the Blue Dogs to continue [to set the agenda].” And, as he notes, just because Dems control the executive and legislative branches now doesn’t mean they will in 2010 — in which case they won’t be able to push through a progressive agenda. Namely, our rights.

Which explains why, moving forward, Hildebrand is taking a new strategy: No more supporting individual candidates, which has been his M.O. Instead, he’ll focus on “building campaigns to put pressure on politicians from outside the electoral system,” relays Mark Gabrish Conlan. Says Hildebrand: “We have to help elect good people to office, but we also have to push them from the outside. I don’t want to have to listen to one more candidate talk about ‘reforming health care’ and not get it done. I’m tired of it.”

You’ve got to hand it to the guy: Hildebrand isn’t kidding around. He could have easily graduated from putting Obama in the White House and moved on to advising other political clients for handsome fees.

But he’s not. And nor is he mincing words. He may have spent 22 years helping put people in office, and the last year getting Obama into the White House, but it’s clear Hildebrand is operating off his own agenda now. One of true equality, which he’ll enact not by getting anyone elected, but by forcing them to stick to campaign promises and the needs of their constituents.

We’d suggest Hildebrand himself run for political office, but that’d be a waste of a perfectly good American.

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  • terrwill

    Unfortunately I have a crappy feeling that Obama is never going to be able to live up to the potential we all felt energized about prior to his taking office. For one very simple reason: The vast majority of those calling him “facist” a “socialist”, a “dictator”, or any of the dozens of other terms they are using. What they really want to say call him is “nigger” and it bugs the bejezus out of them that they can’t say that out loud so they use dozens of code words. Lets face it the majority of these rightwing nuts are bigots down to their dirty core. They may put on a black face by appointing Michael Steele as chairman of the Repugnatcans but their stomach is turning that they have a black man as the President of the US. They rant and rave about the “extreme Liberal views” he is imposing on us. They rant about his wanting to address school kids, never mind that George W and Ronald Regan did the same freaking thing. Yet as they rant about his address the majority of Texas School Boards are voting on revising school text books to insert teaching kids about Newt Gingrich, the Moral Majority, and RUSH LIMBAUGH (AKA: Rush Windbag) with no Liberal counterparts included! They don’t give two shits about our causes and concerns. Obama has to wake up and realize there is no appeasing these people. We have the majority push thru as much damm legislation as you can…………..

  • Chris Cameron

    No, “we all” didn’t feel energized about it. I had serious misgivings about Obama. From his campaigning with the homophobic “ex-gay” McClurkin to his praising Ronald Reagan to his refusal to be photographed with Gavin Newsome. I thought his health care program was far too weak. I thought he pandered too much to Republicans. I hated the bipartisan baloney—the idea that you can work with Republicans when they are mostly rabid haters who will gut-punch you at the first opportunity. I worried that Obama would not stand up to the right wing. And I was right.

    I was something called a Hillary supporter. I felt like Obama was forced down our community’s throat by guys like David Mixner and Steve Hildebrand and John Aravosis—guys that maybe need to take a look at their own sexism just a little bit. They fell in love with a good looking, slick product. A relentless self-promoter who isn’t going to stick his next out for the likes of gays and lesbians.

    Obama has gotten us nowhere. And will get us nowhere. And many of us told you so and got called racists for it.

  • will clemens

    In the next election If Miss Palin is in the run off’s I will vote for her. What the gay community needs is another Anita Bryant to light a match under our ass.More happend under Bush’s watch due to so man hating that president and having sympathy for our cause. LETS GO SARAH!

  • Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com

    Hmmm. I wouldn’t describe it as “turning against” as much as “tilting away from.”

    But, while light years from the mea maxima culpa the LGBT community deserves from him, it’s good to see that Mr. Hildebrand has apparently finally realized that it’s time he stopped being a part of the problem and tried becoming a part of the solution. In a widely circulated interview just two months ago, covered by Queerty, his oozing, swooning Valentine to Obama helped accomplish the same thing among many gays across the country that read it that the White House tea party did for those in attendance: it narcotized them. Just when we were finally approaching some leverage [the hastily thrown together drugged tea party was Exhibit A of that], it was knocked out of our hands by gaggles of gays, once again, falling on the floor and speaking in tongues over how much Massa luvs us.

    Beyond his ridiculous assertion that “Obama was handed a larger number of really big issues to deal with at the beginning of his presidency than any other president in history,” we’ll skip recapping Hildebrand’s multiple inexcusable exaggerations and factual errors at the time, and simply repeat his most revealing statements:

    “people will accuse me—probably rightfully so—that I’m a Kool-Aid drinker.”

    On whether Obama “gets” gays “in his gut” and the importance of gay civil rights:

    “I don’t think it’s just in his gut, I think it’s in his heart. … I do believe that in his heart he will fight his tail off until we’ve achieved full equality in the gay community.”

    Just reading it again makes me want to ask for an insulin injection.

    From today’s Politico: “[Steve Hilderbrand] one of President Barack Obama’s former top campaign advisers is ‘losing patience’ with the White House, he told POLITICO Tuesday morning, as frustrations among the president’s liberal allies crest over issues from health care legislation to gay rights. … Obama, he said, ‘needs to be more bold in his leadership’. …

    Hildebrand is by far the most senior member of Obama’s political team to express public doubts about the White House, though he had already begun to part ways with Obama’s other top aides as the 2008 presidential campaign wore on.

    Hildebrand was a key player in the primary campaign but, other aides say, grew increasingly alienated from the organization as Obama—as he saw it—chose to compromise on some civil rights issues. Other top campaign officials grew frustrated with what they saw as Hildebrand’s at times negative attitude and his candid comments to the press, rare in the intensely disciplined campaign.

    Still, he remains close to some top Obama aides, and his blast from the left is a mark of the depth of dissent even within elements of the organization that elected the first black president. His public comments are ‘nothing I haven’t directly said to folks in the White House’, Hildebrand told POLITICO.”

    Polite applause. But given that the “folks in the White House,” in his own words, aren’t “listening,” given he was one of those who, first, helped convince LGBTs to elect Obama and, to then give Obama more time which simply resulted in his creating a leadership vacuum that has been hijacked by Repug Brown Shirts—it would be fitting for him to repeat—and amplify—such loyal criticism in front of TV news cameras focused on the platform for the rally after the National Equality March in October.

    [NB for readers: Despite the source article’s tired linguistic chic, “Queer” is not a part of the name of the San Diego Democratic Club.]

  • InExile

    @Chris Cameron: Thank you, thank you, couldn’t have said it better myself!

    None of this is a surprise! Just a disappointment.

    Once I thought I was wrong and that was my mistake.

  • schlukitz

    @will clemens:

    Obama may not have turned out to be the dreamboat many of hope for…but Sarah Palin???

    Are you some kind of masochist or something?

    If that crazy bitch (and no, I am not a misogynist)ever gets elected, and don’t kid yourself, there are enough crazy fucking fundamentalists and rednecks in this kuntry that would vote for her in a heartbeat, you had better start planning your escape route out of Amurika if you want to save your queer ass!

  • Rick

    Republicans have saddled Obama with the label of socialist.

    He has yet to do much of anything to shake it off.

    He might try going on the attack against these people.

  • InExile

    @schlukitz: Dito that!

  • schlukitz


    He might try going on the attack against these people.

    Perhaps his not doing much of anything to shake it off might be due to the fact that he is more aligned with these people than even he might like to publicly admit?

  • AlkeWekJunkie

    @ Terwill and beause he’s black he’s put moreso under the microscope, whites (gay & straight) are SO critial of him, they seem to forget that this country is in the mess due to the last 8 years of Bush running rampant!! But expect him to turn it around with the blink of an eye!! Dayum shame!

  • InExile

    @schlukitz: He is these people just not as obvious.

  • InExile

    @AlkeWekJunkie: I could agree with you if he had shown ANY LEADERSHIP which he has not. On anything, I may add.

  • JohnVisser

    F**k the Democratic Party – they haven’t got the collective chutzpah to even get it up much less get it off. My question is this: If the GOP campaigns against my rights and the Dems ignore me, then what other option to I have? Do I need to buy a gun and shoot a wing nut every time they gay bash one of ours? Do I need to start throwing bombs into churches every time there is an attack on an LGBT center or club? Maybe that is the only answer – violence.

  • john

    @Rick: or he could just stop pushing a socialist agenda.

  • JohnVisser

    Should I cherry pick a passage out of the bible – an eye for an eye?

  • InExile

    @john: No socialist agenda on his plate, he’s for the corporations and by the corporations, no interest in the common man just himself. And the gays, what gays?

  • Bronte

    I was a huge Hillary supporter back then because she promised health care to the masses.

    Obama, lied about so many things.

    I am heartbroken that people fell for him.

  • M Shane

    Starting off a discussion pl\ain stupid has little promise to find anything out. Only an amporphus botch of poltroons and imbecils would even suggest that Obama is anything remotely like a Socialist,. I’m a Socialist and as far as I’m concerned he’s nearly as bent Right as anyone in the Congress and that’s really close to Fascism.
    Read some post WW2 History. before you start out stupid.
    When Universal Health Care and the coservativeseconomic moves he has had to make are far from eveb centrist in the modern world,.
    That is hardly what Steve H. is talking about. Much more has to do with ending the war and the interminable hold big buziness has on everything and everyone. It has to do with the things that the ACLU is concerned about.
    Better get smart or not talk at all. Only the real dummies are calling him a Socialist, he hasn’t even done anything to bring jobs back to America.

  • Andrew W

    This guy is a “tool.” This is the beginning of the Obama-LGBT “spin.” We are being prepared for “it’s not my fault.” Blaming Republicans and some Democrats. I can hear it now “gee whiz, we tried.”

    Our Equality will not come from “political” efforts, but from the rejection and ending of the religious lies about us. As long as we’re wrong, we can never be equal. Religion did that to us, not Republicans or Democrats. Their religious “beliefs” prevent us from obtaining equality.

  • Bill Perdue

    @Chris Cameron: @InExile: The problem with Obama is not that he doesn’t listen hard enough, his bogus campaign promises show that he does. Like clockwork he responds with ‘innovative and exciting’ variations of the same bogus promises after every backstabbing attack.

    Lying and backstabbing. It’s what Democrats do. Republicans don’t bother. They know we know.

    The problem with Obama is that he’s a Clinton clone. You remember Clinton – DOMA, NAFTA, deregulation, DADT, deregulation and the embargo that killed about half a million Iraqi children. No Democrat or Republican running for President would have done anything remotely different from Clinton, Bush or Obama with the possible of Kucinich and he has this thing for being a false prophet crying out in the wilderness. If he were serious he’d quit the Democrats.

    Both parties agree on pursuing a racist war of genocide from Palestine to Pakistan.

    Democrats and Republicans agree with the insurance companies, HMO’s and Big Pharma that socialized medicine, the only real health care reform, is off the books.

    Democrats and Republicans agree that Clinton’s DADT and DOMA will stay on the books.

    Democrats and Republicans agree that giving trillion dollar welfare checks to the looter rich and predatory lenders is just dandy, because all of them, especially Obama, are happy handpuppets of the rich. And they agree on union busting maintaining union busting laws like NAFTA and deregulation, both championed by the Clintons and the Bushes.

  • Bill Perdue

    @will clemens: The way to prevent what would follow a Palin or Huckabee election is to desert the backing stabbing Democrats and build a GLBT left to lead our fight for equality.

    And don’t woory, Obama and the Hilbots will give us all the incentive we need to be militant.

  • jimmy

    If only Obama was a liberal. We haven’t had one in the White House since FDR.

  • InExile

    We wouldn’t be having all these problems if Hillary was in the White House.

  • M Shane

    No. 22 · InExil: No with Hillary we’de have worse ones; Whikle It’s had to project the exact nature she was just another Bush. As Biill Said her hubby got gays into the multiple problems they face , also working people were rendered helpless(nearly everyone) and Bi8g Business was given a Global free hand,

    The fact that Steve H. casts any valid criticism is quesrtionable in that he is gay and subject . There are so many other critical areas.in which Obama has failed to show leadership.; tio step up to te

    ] It is inconsistent with hi suipoes

  • robert

    If only Obama were indeed a socialist, virtually none of them in the party are. The word socialist is bandeda bout by the far right as a code word for communism, the two are different.

    The same applies to the health care reform debate and the public option which is hardly socialized medicine when insurance companies and big pharma are part of the equation.

    To all those who use medicare and who think they don’t want so called socialized medicine, why don’t you turn in your card to the government and go out and buy private health insurance instead, assuming its a lot better, but more expensive? Good luck to you if you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford it…I’m sure most republicans can, and you can live with health care that denies you coverage for a pre-existing condition and procedures that an insurance provider will deny you while jacking up your premiums annually for less coverage. Come to think of it, why don’t all of the republican politicians and blue dog democrats reject their federal (socialized) health plan and buy their own if its so bad? They’ve been pretty silent about that and so have their town hall disrupters.

  • InExile

    @M Shane: At least she didn’t run and hide from the gays, she included us in active dialogue. Obama early on almost never mentions gays when he spoke, in fact he refused to be interviewed by various gay publications, which Hillary gladly gave interviews to. I also think he is much weaker than she is, has no balls, takes no stands (hence his Senate voting record voting present more than yes or no), just a salesman who had little to offer as far as experience or a record. Voting present so much showed he was afraid to take a stand on many issues then, just like now. Gay rights unfortunately is just the tip of the ice berg.

  • natriley

    Hold on a minute Mr. Hildebrand. As I recall, you said the Republicans were setting priorities. Not so, if they were, we wouldn’t be debating health care reform. Terriwell is surely correct that Obama will never live up to our fantasies of a perfect President. How many of us would have rescued the economy by bailing out GE and Goldman Sachs? On the other hand stock market players who invested in these firms by April made fabulous profits.

    Nor is Hildebrand correct that Obama doesn’t listen. When we have moved along the the calendar and are in the 2nd half of 2010, the reasons for the slow pick up will become clear. Many of the matters we care most about will not be handled by the White House or by members of the Cabinet. They will be the responsibility of directors, undersecretaries and bureau chiefs. They have not yet been appointed. Bet you a dollar that Justice Department changed its tune on gay marriage after the Attorney General appointed a new person.

    Hildebrand is surely correct that we and the left had better get back in the game. The right has successfully moved opinion on health care to one third against, one third for, and one third “I don’t know.” We have to fight for our issues and persuade our members of Congress. This is Hildebrand’s bottom line and he is right. But he shouldn’t make the Republicans job easier by blaming Obama. He will be juggling balls hopefully for eight years.

  • Jeton Ademaj

    @Bill Perdue:

    well said.

  • Chitown Kev

    @Bill Perdue:

    “The problem with Obama is that he’s a Clinton clone.”

    Yep, pretty much.

  • Bill Perdue

    @natriley: Democrats, by which I mean rank and file party supporters, won’t be part of the left until they stop projecting their ideas onto candidates who could care less what we think and sever their ties with the owners of the Democratic (sic) Party.

    They don’t have a snowballs chance in hell of reforming the Democrats. There have been a dozen or so powerful, well intentioned, hard fought efforts to reform them beginning with the populist movement over 100 years ago. All have failed miserably. Not even the departure of most of the Dixiecrats (Clinton and Gore stayed) made the slightest difference. The reason is blindingly obvious.

    Like the Republicans, they’re owned by the rich.

    Democrats are Republicans in drag.

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