Appearing on CNBC the day after he abruptly withdrew his nomination for Commerce Secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg made a rather blunt admission about the partisan intransigence that the Obama administration is forced to deal with.
From the transcript:
Carl Quintanilla: Well, Senator, since you were nominated it's become quite clear that the margin that the president is going to rely on in the Senate has come down to really three Senators."
Sen. Gregg: I think it's always been that margin.
The remark suggests that no matter the extent or quality of White House overtures on the stimulus, 38 Republican Senators would be in opposition. In the same interview, Gregg detailed some of the philosophical areas on which he and the president could forge agreement. But there is something remarkably candid about admitting that Obama "always" had a margin of error of three Republican Senators when it came to an economic recovery package that the vast majority of elected officials consider vital.
Certainly, it's enough to spur a new round of debate over whether the notion of post-partisanship -- however noble -- is serving the president well or is a practical means of legislating. Privately and increasingly publicly, Democratic operatives are pining for the White House to move away from cross-the-aisle overtures.
But others say the long-term benefits are worth it, regardless of how many olive branches go unaccepted. I talked this morning with consultant Bob Shrum about this very topic, and here is what he had to say:
I don't think that Obama will abandon attempts at outreach across the aisle because I think they are helping him. I understand the conventional wisdom is that the process is in disarray. But in the end Obama comes out the winner because he looks open and reasonable. Gregg looked somewhere between goofy and dishonest while the Republicans in Congress look bitter and with no alternative.
I think maybe the political and chattering class doesn't get this but maybe the voters do. I think Obama will stay calm and focused. He won't react to the gyrations of the daily news cycle or the daily Dow. And I think that is smart. All you have to look at his approval ratings and the support for the stimulus where there was all this second-guessing.