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White House Communications Chief Gets Grilled at Liberal Convention

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer spent nearly an hour defending the Obama administration to the liberal community Friday while speaking at Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis.

He faced off with Daily Kos blogger Kaili Joy Gray, who goes by the name "Angry Mouse." She peppered him with questions she wrote along with ones from the audience and Twitter in real-time. Gray often had a combative tone, re-asking questions when she seemed to feel Pfeiffer was being evasive or getting into too much Washington speak.

Gray pressed him for nearly an hour on topics and noted that nothing was off limits, and she followed through on that-- asking him on various topics ranging from jobs to closing Guantanamo Bay, Libya, women's rights, gay marriage, Medicare, tax cuts, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, to why the left should vote for President Obama in 2012.

Off the top, Pfeiffer recognized that he was walking into what the HuffingtonPost called the "lion's den."

Gray expressed displeasure from the left on Obama compromising on extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

She repeatedly asked when "can we expect to stop firing people for being gay?" Pfeiffer answered that repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell is still going through the process of being implemented.

One of the more particularly pointed questions was when Gray noted how much former President George W. Bush was able to get done, even though he had a Democratic Congress and used executive power, so why hasn't Obama been able to do more.

"You've mentioned a couple of times that it's very difficult for the president to get things done when he doesn't even have people in his own party who are willing to support him," Gray said of one of Pfeiffer's answers. "When Bush was president, he had a minority in Congress for a lot of that time. He used the power of the executive order quite a bit, he was able to get a lot done. Why is it so much harder for Obama to get things done?"

Pfeiffer's answer about how the president works with Congress drew a sarcastic retort.

"Are you saying president Bush was better at bipartisanship than Obama is?" Gray asked.

She also hit on the issue of Libya, and how the president can go through with the mission without Congressional approval.

"In the 1950's, the U.S. sent a few military advisors to Vietnam then 20 years later, we had tens of thousands of dead Americans and the war was over," Gray questioned. "How do we know Libya isn't going to turn into a bigger war."

"When we went in, we went in a very limited way and it was done through a multi-lateral coalition with a limited American presence which is exactly the opposite of what we had most recently done in Iraq," Pfeiffer answered.

Towards the end of the exchange, Gray asked what's in it for the progressive wing she was representing in giving Obama a second term. She said they may still vote Democratic, but some of them aren't likely to knock and doors and give money. Pfeiffer said there's a lot more to be accomplished and he shares in their discontent.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked in Friday's briefing by Fox News' Mike Emanuel whether he was surprised by the reception.

"We solicit and want to hear ideas from a variety of corners, participants in the dialogue and people with ideas and a stake in the solutions we find to a lot of the -- the challenges that face us. So I think that was also a useful and robust conversation that the communications director had, and we're happy to do that kind of thing," Carney said.

On whether the president is "frustrated" with the "professional left" (this term was used by former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and caused a little tension with the liberal community), Pfeiffer said they're "frustrated" with some of their critics, but not all. He said the administration wants the left to keeping pushing, and that Obama particularly understands because he has a community organizing background.

The Netroots Nation conference is an annual gathering of liberal and progressive bloggers. In addition to Pfeiffer, other lawmakers and political figures also attended including Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Sen. Klobuchar, D-Minn.

She asked if the president would come back next year to speak, and Pfeiffer said he would definitely discuss with president but that his schedule is challenging.

It ended with the two shaking hands on stage, and Gray saying to Pfeiffer that it wasn't too bad, and he responded with a grin, said "no."

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