That was quick.
Less than a month into his presidency, Barack Obama has found that no one is really buying bipartisanship. His base hates it, as the blogs will tell you. His allies in Congress resent it, as Sen. Schumer signaled on Sunday morning. And while media outlets still prioritize a bipartisan process over actual policy substance, like this weird Washington Post editorial, even centrist pundits are souring on Obama's bipartisan bouquets. Time's Joe Klein, a fan of bipartisanship, has concluded that bipartisanship is currently impossible because there are no good faith partners in Washington:
Obama should now understand that the Republicans are not reliable partners -- at least, not for the moment. Most are stuck in the contentious past, rutted in Reaganism, intent on taking a Hooverist course on the economy... the president's default position, after the stimulus fight and the Gregg fiasco, should be to appoint Democrats to significant domestic policy positions...
I don't happen to think Sen. Gregg's indecision qualifies as a fiasco, but it does add a personal flavor to the Republicans' political posture. Here's the bottom line: They're just not that into Obama.
Yes, the president can keep calling them and saying all the right things. He can woo them and invite them over, like that hyped White House "bipartisan super bowl party." He can go to their home, like his trek to Maryland for two and a half hours of lamb chops and neocons. He can even add their ideas to his legislation and their nominees to his cabinet, as The Nation's Ari Berman recounts.
If Obama is taking all those actions based on their own intrinsic value -- for healthy debate and a wide circle of advisers -- then fine. The notion that this bipartisan process will yield more GOP support, however, has been officially shredded. If it doesn't work now, with Obama's recent election mandate, booming approval ratings and a public eager for government action to address the economic crisis, it's not going to work. And anyone who thinks the G.O.P. will get more cooperative is placing a bet on politicians growing less political as the next elections draw closer.
Team Obama is already recalibrating, naturally. Rahm Emanuel recently noted that an "insatiable appetite" for bipartisanship made Obama's team "get ahead" of itself. The president, for his part, clarified that bipartisan outreach does not make him a "sap." And throughout his career, Obama has pivoted deftly from the soft touch to knockout blows. He explained this approach during a campaign interview back in 2007, in a clip which the blogger Jed Lewison recently flagged:
I don't like people trying to take advantage of that [outreach]. This is why actually if you watch my political interactions. I am always best as a counter-puncher. You know, somebody comes at me I will knock them out. If not, I will try to understand their point of view and that actually serves me well. I give people the benefit of the doubt; I try to understand their point of view -- if I perceive that they try to take advantage of that then I will crush them.
It's about that time, obviously.
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