Partisanship Is a Worthy Foe in Debate on Stimulus
By Jackie Calmes
Published: February 6, 2009
WASHINGTON — With the Senate on track to pass its version of the economic stimulus legislation, President Obama is widely expected to win final Congressional approval of the plan soon, and thus make good on an assortment of his campaign promises. But in the process, he is confronting the impediments to his most ambitious pledge: to end the capital’s partisan warfare.
Mr. Obama has been frustrated by an array of forces, from an often bitter and personal history of partisanship on Capitol Hill to the near-extinction of Republican moderates in the House to the deep ideological gulf between the parties on economic policy. And as his aspiration of putting aside petty politics has met the necessity of winning legislative votes — no more than two or three Senate Republicans are expected to support him, which is two or three more than did so in the House — he has gone through a public evolution that has left him showing sharper edges when it comes to the ways of Washington.
Frustrated that debate over the bill was being dominated by Republicans’ criticism, and that his overtures had yielded little in the way of support from across the aisle, the president who began the week hosting Republicans for a Super Bowl party had by Friday switched to publicly pressuring them, and rallying fellow Democrats, with a hard-line message about his unwillingness to compromise his priorities. Mr. Obama seized on Friday’s worse-than-expected jobless numbers to criticize the Senate impasse as Republicans withheld the few votes he needs. “It is inexcusable and irresponsible to get bogged down in distraction and delay while millions of Americans are being put out of work,” he said. Americans, he added, did not want lawmakers “to turn back to the same tried and failed approaches that were rejected in the last election.”
His comments came on Day 3 of Mr. Obama’s counteroffensive. As the Senate debated the package this week, he initially stayed above the fray, giving Republicans leeway to add tax breaks and hoping their support for the overall plan would follow. When it did not, he began speaking out on Wednesday, even as he privately kept reaching out to a few Republicans: including, unsuccessfully, Senator John McCain of Arizona. White House aides say that Mr. Obama will continue reaching out, but that bipartisanship should not be measured simply by how many Republican votes the final product gets.
The president is “not alarmed” by the dearth of Republican support so far, said Daniel H. Pfeiffer, the deputy White House communications director. “There’s a long process of building trust here.” That process inevitably raised questions of whether Mr. Obama’s reaching out was more style than substance. He has hosted individual Republicans at the White House for cocktails and talks in the Oval Office, and last week made his first trip to the Capitol as president to meet with all House and Senate Republicans, overtures that won him points for style.
But the president made plain from the start that he would go only so far in altering an economic plan that embodies much of the agenda that helped get him elected. He told House Republicans, for example, that he would not back down from his proposal that a middle-class tax credit should also go to workers who earn too little to pay income taxes but who do pay payroll taxes. Most Republicans oppose that.
The urban myth that President Hussein Obama is interested in bipartisanship is an administration construct in partnership with the willing liberal media establishment. The president's recent contrived overtures toward Republicans (i.e. SuperBowl party, after hours cocktails) were just that. All show and no substance.
My favorite bit from this article is:
"White House aides say that Mr. Obama will continue reaching out, but that bipartisanship should not be measured simply by how many Republican votes the final product gets."So, how will the president measure "bipartisanship?" What Hussein Obama really wants is unconditional support for his porkulus bill. Once Republicans refused to go along with that monstrosity, he started throwing temper tantrums in the media. Sure he won the election, but that does not mean Congress is obligated to give him whatever he wants. We are still in a democracy. I am not sure for how long, but we still are.