Reporting on President Obama's speech to the Chamber of Commerce Monday, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer sloppily labeled the Chamber as "conservative" in narrating the conflict between the business federation and the President. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, though it may have enjoyed the "conservative" label in the past, has supported major liberal legislation over the past few years in the name of being "pro-business."
"Two years, big business and President Obama were at odds," Brewer introduced the segment. "The boiling point – when Obama accused the conservative Chamber of Commerce of refusing to disclose the millions it spent on campaign ads to defeat Democrats."
The Chamber sent a letter to the U.S. Senate in February of 2009 imploring it to pass the Stimulus bill, H.R. 1. "The legislation is not perfect," the Chamber confessed, adding that "parts of the bill should be modified or eliminated. However, the Chamber urges the Senate to approve H.R. 1, and encourages Congress and the Administration to work on a conference report that provides timely, targeted, and temporary economic stimulus."
The Chamber has also supported the White House on the auto bailout and on trade agreements. The two sides, of course, have had their share of spats as well, which was what Contessa Brewer was originally reporting about. The Chamber fought the White House on financial regulation and health care; Chief Executive Tom Donohue actually accused the White House of heading a "smear campaign" against the Chamber.
Interestingly enough, Brewer seemed to reach out to a liberal audience when she later asked her "big question" of the day: "Is the President bending too far to build bridges with Big Business?" The question seems synonymous with the concern of President Obama's liberal base that the President is making inroads toward appeasing moderate and even conservative voters.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 7 at 12:05 p.m. EST, is as follows:
CONTESSA BREWER: Two years, big business and President Obama were at odds. The boiling point – when Obama accused the conservative Chamber of Commerce of refusing to disclose the millions it spent on campaign ads to defeat Democrats.
BREWER: The Chamber pushed back, on healthcare reform, corporate taxes, and government regulation. Now the two sides appear to be ready for a truce. A few weeks ago Chamber president Tom Donohue downplayed the tension.
TOM DONOHUE, president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: We're going to support him on the export control rules, we're going to support him on immigration...
BREWER: After November's election defeat, the White House changed its tone on business, making a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts even to the wealthy, and hiring new business-friendly advisors like Chief-of-Staff Bill Daley, a former J.P. Morgan Chase executive who Donohue called "a real pro." Gene Sperling is the president's new Chief Economic Advisor.
GENE SPARLING: We're willing to work together.
BREWER: The Chamber's Donohue calls Sperling "someone I'm comfortable sparring with." The President also tapped GE's chief, Jeff Immelt, to head up a new jobs council. But all those new pro-big business moves are scaring the President's liberal supporters. The Agenda Project just today released a new video criticizing Obama's newfound relationship with the Chamber.
CONTESSA'S BIG QUESTION: Is the President bending too far to build bridges with Big Business?