WASHINGTON — The nastiest comment of the trade policy fight between President Obama and progressives in Congress came just minutes after Senate Democrats handed the president a big defeat on Tuesday.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who opposes Obama's trade agenda, accused the president of sexism for calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Elizabeth" in a recent interview with Yahoo News.
"The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else," Obama told Yahoo. "And you know, she's got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don't stand the test of fact and scrutiny."
The use of "Elizabeth" rubbed Brown the wrong way.
"I think the president was disrespectful to her by the way he did that. I think that the president has made this more personal than he needed to," the Ohio senator said, according to Politico.
"I think referring to her as first-name, when he might not have done that for a male senator, perhaps?" Brown told reporters. "I've said enough."
Obama has referred to male Capitol Hill lawmakers by their first names in public many times. The list includes Brown, who Obama has called "Sherrod" on at least three occasions since taking office. All came in positive speeches praising Brown.
Here are three times President Obama called Sen. Brown by his first name:
March 6, 2009 in a speech at a police academy graduation in Columbus, Ohio:
"I came out here with the—a number of members of the Ohio congressional delegation, but I want to make a special note of my former colleague when I was in the Senate, who is just as passionate about working people as anybody in the country, Sherrod Brown. Give Sherrod a big round of applause."
September 17, 2012 in a speech to a union convention in Columbus, Ohio:
"And it's pretty -- it's timely to be able to see you because I was in Cincinnati today -- came up to Columbus this afternoon, and in both places we announced the work that we've done, in conjunction with Sherrod, to make sure that we're filing a new WTO case challenging China's illegal trade and subsidies in autos and auto parts."
November 14, 2013 in a speech at a mining company in Cleveland, Ohio:
"And your Senator Sherrod Brown helped us to create that first manufacturing hub in Youngstown. And he's now leading a bipartisan effort with Senator Blunt of Missouri to move more of these manufacturing innovation hubs all across the country. And Congress should pass Sherrod's bill. We should be doing everything we can to guarantee the next revolution in manufacturing happens right here in Cuyahoga, happens right here in Ohio, happens right here in America."
Brown's Senate staff referred questions about Tuesday's comments to a statement Brown put out March 9 after Obama visited Nike headquarters in Oregon.
"American workers have seen the effects of unfair foreign trade on their jobs and manufacturing facilities - they don't need their elected leaders making personal attacks on each other during an important policy debate," Brown said in the statement.
Obama has also called Warren "Elizabeth" publicly in positive circumstances. Before she was Senator, at a June 25, 2012 Obama fundraiser in Boston:
"And I just want to thank Elizabeth for that introduction and let you know how lucky all of you are to have a chance to vote for her in the next election. Nobody fought harder for Wall Street reform—the reform that is now law and protecting consumers all across the country—than Elizabeth, reform that will end taxpayer bailouts, make sure folks aren't being taken advantage of by mortgage lenders and credit card companies. She has been a fierce advocate, since before I knew her, for the middle class. She has been advocating on core issues that matter to families her entire career. She is going to be an outstanding Senator from Massachusetts, and everybody here has got to turn out for her."
After Warren won her Senate seat, at a June 9, 2014 speech at the White House on student debt:
But to give even more student borrowers the chance to save money requires action from Congress. I'm going to be signing this Executive order. It's going to make progress, but not enough. We need more. We've got to have Congress to make some progress. Now, the good news is, as I said, there are some folks in Congress who want to do it. There are folks here like Jim Clyburn, John Tierney, who are helping lead this fight in the House. We've got Elizabeth Warren, who's leading this fight in the Senate. Elizabeth has written a bill that would let students refinance their loans at today's lower interest rates, just like their parents can refinance a mortgage. It pays for itself by closing loopholes that allow some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than middle class families.