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Nonplussed with Obama, Progressives express fury with Emanuel

Peter Wallsten @ WSJ - President Barack Obama's liberal backers have a long list of grievances. The Guantanamo Bay prison is still open. Health care hasn't been transformed. And Wall Street banks are still paying huge bonuses.

But they are directing their anger less at Mr. Obama than at the man who works down the hall from him. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, they say, is the prime obstacle to the changes they thought Mr. Obama's election would bring.

The friction was laid bare in August when Mr. Emanuel showed up at a weekly strategy session featuring liberal groups and White House aides. Some attendees said they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama's health-care overhaul.

"F—ing retarded," Mr. Emanuel scolded the group, according to several participants. He warned them not to alienate lawmakers whose votes would be needed on health care and other top legislative items.

The unrest among liberals comes at a perilous political time. Party strategists worry that anger on the left could depress turnout in this year's midterm elections and cost the party congressional seats and state governorships. The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC survey found 55% of Republicans "very interested" in the November elections, compared with 38% of Democrats.

Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive, an antiwar magazine, wrote this month that Mr. Emanuel has "delivered defeat" for Mr. Obama and should be fired.

The anger on the left shows that Mr. Obama is caught in an internal battle over both the course of his administration and the Democratic Party. Read more.

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