- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Crowds repeatedly interrupted and heckled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday at America’s Future Now conference in what was the latest and most dramatic evidence of simmering, left-wing anger among those attending the three-day liberal gathering.

Conference organizers had hoped Tuesday would be the day to highlight liberal success stories, but the theme running throughout the event — from hallway conversations to ballroom speeches — was frustration with Mrs. Pelosi, Senate Democrats, White House operatives and President Obama himself.

The tone was set early when Mrs. Pelosi’s speech at Washington’s Omni Shoreham hotel ballroom was hijacked by a rowdy coalition of antiwar protesters and advocates for the disabled who were angry over a health care bill they said was inadequate.

As the California Democrat tried to talk about her party’s accomplishments, members of the activist groups Code Pink and ADAPT shouted and challenged Mrs. Pelosi to put down her prepared remarks and respond to their complaints.

Hotel and event officials appeared ready to intervene, but Mrs. Pelosi waved them off. After several minutes of attempting to engage with the protesters, she went on despite the disturbances, yelling her address over the background din of shouts and chants of “Our homes, not nursing homes.”

“Listen, I’m used to the noise,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “I talk to the Democratic caucus every day.”

While the speaker made light of the incident, one of the organizers who introduced Mrs. Pelosi, Roger Wilkins, brushed aside questions: “I’m not going to have a conversation about what just happened. I’m not.”

ADAPT is an advocacy group for the disabled whose members say they are unhappy with both Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Obama’s failure to secure funding in the health care bill that would have made it easier for the disabled to receive care at home rather than in institutions.

“We have to be bold if we want anyone to listen,” said Anita Cameron, a member of ADAPT from Rochester, N.Y. “We have been trying to work with her for years.”

She said the group is nonpartisan, but many members had worked to elect President Obama.

“We were so hopeful, and many of us still are,” she said, adding that it felt like a “slap in the face” once he was elected and “began to back away from those who had supported him.”

It was a familiar lament among attendees, exhibitors and speakers at the conference.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean urged attendees to keep the pressure on Washington Democrats, including the president.

“They need to remember that all those seats we won in 2008 — those are our seats, not theirs. If they want to keep them, they need to remember who sent them here,” he said.

Mr. Dean cited the upset victory of Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party Senate primary and relished the possibility of another outsider’s victory in Arkansas on Tuesday, where White House-backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln struggled to hold off a primary challenger.

The Obama administration also came under fire from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who joined conference organizers and the National Organization for Women in a midday press conference to chastise the president and Democrats on Capitol Hill for putting concerns about deficit spending above jobs programs.

“Fears about the federal deficit are misguided,” Mr. Trumka said. “We do not have a short-term deficit crisis. We have a short-term jobs crisis.”

Mr. Trumka and representatives from NOW and the Center for Community Change called for the president and the Democrats to back “progressive tax reform” and a federal jobs program.

“It’s time for Obama to walk the walk,” Mr. Trumka said.

Activist Cenk Uygur, a panelist in a session on campaign-finance reform, urged progressives to look beyond the president and congressional Democrats for reform.

“Obama is not a progressive. He is, if anything, center-right. If you’re waiting on these Democrats to solve the problem, well, good luck,” said Mr. Uygur, who hosts a liberal radio talk show, “The Young Turks.”

The 2010 elections, he said, prove that the desire to clean up Washington is fueling activists on both ends of the political spectrum. “On campaign-finance reform, the right wing really is our natural ally. I see them as the cavalry, and I can’t wait for the cavalry to arrive.”

In the conference’s exhibit hall, activist Beth Corbin, a field director for Americans United, which advocates separation of church and state, said her group also is frustrated that the president hasn’t rolled back the Bush-era faith-based initiatives.

“People were so hoping for change, we probably projected too much of what we wanted onto President Obama,” she said. “Maybe that was unfair to him.”

On Monday, activists and conference speakers criticized the president for not making more progress on gay rights, the handling of the Gulf oil spill, the failure to include a public option in the health care law and the bailout of American banks and Wall Street.

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