A couple people I’ve talked to at the America’s Future Now conference were as stunned as I was by White House designated progressive Jared Bernstein walking out Tuesday before the end of his own panel on jobs and the economy, while NYT columnist Bob Herbert was speaking. The optics of this are completely ridiculous. Bernstein gave a speech basically telling the assembled not to “lose sight” of the advances made in the Obama Administration, while recognizing the mass joblessness and the need for more action. “If you think any of us in the WH are satisfied with where we are, please let me disabuse you of that notion,” he said, going on to call for passage of aid to state Medicaid budget shortfalls and the COBRA subsidy, two pieces taken out of the jobs bill to please Blue Dogs. Bernstein even said that the Administration has not pivoted to deficit reduction (contrary to their actions?). In other words, he gave a speech, alternately pandering to the crowd and playing defense. He wanted to prove that he was listening to the concerns of progressives.

And then, he left. While Bob Herbert was speaking and calling the lack of urgency on jobs “offensive.” As if to highlight the lack of urgency, Bernstein strolled out of the room. He made his speech, and that was all that needed to be done to satisfy the masses, I guess.

If you wonder why I described this event as “surly,” I think that actions like that underscore it. People are desperate for real engagement from their leadership. But they feel like they have been put at arm’s length. Because they have.