Dana Milbank
Dana Milbank
Opinion Writer

Obama and his foot soldiers go toe to toe

The combatants in the great Democratic footwear debate are digging in their heels.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) took the stage wearing 3-inch pumps Monday morning at the annual liberal confab hosted by the Campaign for America’s Future. “A week or so ago, the president addressed the Congressional Black Caucus, and he got a lot of flak for telling people to take off their bedroom shoes,” she told the crowd at the Washington Hilton. “But you know what? I say, ‘Take off your high heels.’”

Dana Milbank

Dana Milbank writes a regular column on politics.

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It’s not clear what Edwards knows about President Obama that would make her advise him so publicly to stop wearing women’s clothing. But, to demonstrate, she kicked off her own shoes and delivered the rest of her speech in stockinged feet, declaring that the 2012 election will be won by “people who indeed take off their bedroom slippers, take off their high heels, put on their marching shoes.”

Obama cobbled together a winning coalition in 2008, but now many of these same foot soldiers say he has lost his sole.

The trouble began when Obama accused his allies of being loafers. “I expect all of you to march with me and press on,” he told the black caucus. “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.”

“So, you will take off your slippers?” Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)

“I’ve never owned a pair of bedroom slippers,” she replied.

The liberal Daily Kos’s Bill Harnsberger posted a “memo to President Obama” stating: “The reason I wear bedroom slippers is because the retractable metal spike in the toe comes in handy against my political enemies.”

Naturally, the controversy found its way to the White House briefing room. “Can you tell us whether any other groups have been told to take off their bedroom slippers?” press secretary Jay Carney was asked. “And should anybody in the ballroom that night take offense at the president’s admonishment to take off their bedroom slippers and start marching?”

Carney, while admitting he hadn’t discussed the slipper controversy with the president, replied that Obama had used “similarly vivid language before a variety of audiences.” This is true: Obama earlier instructed a North Carolina audience to “kick off our bedroom slippers and put on our marching shoes.”

In his foray into footwear, Obama is stealing a march on the Tea Party, which adopted as its symbol the yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

But the shoe has at times been on the other foot. The first lady often tells the story of the time on the campaign trail in Iowa when “I kicked off my high heels and started walking around barefoot in the grass.”

The president, of course, frequently talks in terms of “boots on the ground.” And, during the Gulf oil spill, Obama aides said the president would keep a “boot on the throat” of BP.

Had he kept up that feisty tone, he probably wouldn’t have to worry about his supporters wearing slippers for his reelection fight. He would have been a shoo-in.

danamilbank@washpost.com

 
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