When you gather together a group of establishment journalists, you're likely to hear all about how bipartisanship is a magic elixir, without which important pieces of policy cannot be enacted. That was the basic premise of this morning's dreary chat on Morning Joe, in which the House Republicans unwillingness to cast a single vote for the stimulus package was depicted as a failure for Obama's leadership. Never mind the fact that the bill did pass, and never mind the fact that if the bill clears the Senate and the policy enacted is effective, the vote totals will become largely irrelevant.
New York Magazine's John Heilemann asserts that Obama needs big vote margins, because important policies somehow cease to be important if they pass on narrow, party-line votes. I'd beg to differ: Bill Clinton stuffed his NAFTA bill full of carrots and it still narrowly cleared the House of Representatives in 1993. I'd posit that that was an important piece of legislation. I'd similarly posit that the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 was important, and it, too, got through the House without a single Republican vote.
Of course, then we have Mark Halperin, saying the sort of thing that leads people like me to wonder what planet he lives on. As astute readers are aware, Obama made substantial changes to the stimulus package as a sop to conservatives in an attempt to secure a "big centrist majority" over the objections of his own party. Those concessions include adding a bevy of corporate tax cuts, eliminating contraceptive funding, and cutting down funding for rail projects. Halperin seems to have missed all of this:
HALPERIN: The other thing he could have done...you can go for centrist compromises and say to your own party, "Sorry, some of you liberals aren't going to like it, but I'm going to change this legislation radically to get a big centrist majority rather than an all-Democratic vote." He chose not to do that. That's the exact path that George Bush took for most of his presidency with disastrous consequences for bipartisanship and solving big problems.
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