White House Repudiates SEIU's Stern Talk of Opponents as 'Terrorists'

The White House yesterday took one of President Obama’s closest political friends to task, declaring that labor boss Andrew Stern’s use of the term “terrorist” to describe opponents of health care reform and organized labor’s much-pursued “card check” legislation is language that “make[s] no sense.”

Twice in the last week, Service Employee International Union President Stern deployed the term “terrorist” to characterize political opponents.  At a panel hosted by the Center for American Progress on January 26th, he referred to policy changes that Sens. Joe Lieberman (Independent Democrat-CT.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb) made during health care negotiations and said the country "should send the national security people over to [the Senate to] explain to them why we don’t negotiate with terrorists…"

Later, in comments that appeared in Business Week Magazine, Stern again took a swipe at Lieberman and Nelson for their opposition to the card-check proposal, which the SEIU and other unions have made a major priority and which opponents say would severely weaken the secret ballot in union elections.

In referring to Lieberman, Nelson and senators who opposed card-check, the SEIU boss said “[T]here are a lot of terrorists in the Senate who think we are supposed to negotiate with them when they have their particular needs that they want met."

At yesterday’s briefing for reporters at the White House, I contrasted the praise President Obama had received for the tone of his address at the House Republican retreat last week with the harsh words of Stern and particularly his likening people he disagreed with to terrorists.

“Is that the kind of talk the President associates with or repudiates?” I asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

“I have said this many times in this room about different policy debates,” Gibbs replied, “ Nobody should be compared to people that — to the people that have sought to do the world harm through terrorism [emphasis added].

“Nobody should be compared to Nazis.  I think in the heat of these debates people tend to get overexcited on both sides of the political spectrum, in both parties, and I think that those types of comments on either side make no sense.”

Gibbs’ no-holds-barred repudiation of Stern’s language is particularly noteworthy because, along with being an early and vigorous supporter of Obama in the ’08 campaign, the SEIU boss has had 22 appointments with Obama in the White House in the past year — making him the most frequent visitor with Obama since he became President.