An attempt on behalf of the White House to reach out to the business community backfired on Thursday, when Chief of Staff William Daley referred to his boss's regulatory policies as "bureaucratic stuff that's hard to defend":
One by one, exasperated executives stood to air their grievances on environmental regulations and stalled free-trade deals. And Daley, the former banker tasked with building ties with industry, found himself looking for the right balance between empathy and defending his boss.
At one point, the room erupted in applause when Massachusetts manufacturing executive Doug Starrett, his voice shaking with emotion, accused the administration of blocking construction on one of his facilities to protect fish, saying government "throws sand into the gears of progress."
Daley said he did not have many good answers, appearing to throw up his hands in frustration at what he called "bureaucratic stuff that's hard to defend."
"Sometimes you can't defend the indefensible," he said.
The exchange suggests the limits of the elaborate courtship of corporations begun by President Obama and his top aides after Democrats' big losses in the 2010 elections — an effort that has taken on new urgency in recent weeks.