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Howard Fineman

Howard Fineman

Posted: December 1, 2010 01:37 PM

There were some, including some in the media, who listened to President Obama's account of this week's meeting with Republicans and concluded that there was hope for a surprisingly bipartisan conclusion to the lame duck Congress.

My questions are: What planet do he and they think they are on? And have they paid any attention to Sen. Mitch McConnell?

The president emerged from the meeting yesterday to say, hopefully, that he had suggested that they work together not just on taxes and spending, but on the other issues pending, including an extension of unemployment insurance.

But at that very moment McConnell and the rest of the GOP Senate leadership were beginning work on a plan to force the Senate to do just the opposite: a unified GOP threat to filibuster debate on anything but taxes and spending.

This morning, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was sounding upbeat -- even after news of the McConnell strategy had surfaced.

Republicans are energized and out for blood. And, like all tough politicians, when they sense weakness and confusion on the other side, they are emboldened to press harder.

On the Hill yesterday, GOP aides privately could barely contain their contempt -- and their amusement -- at the president's declaration of a dawn of bipartisan optimism.

They know that Obama already in effect has conceded on a two- or three-year extension of all tax cuts, and they are going to insist on that before considering anything else -- which, in the end, they won't.

Barack Obama and his crew have many good qualities. But that list does not include skill and guts at legislative combat with Republicans. They don't seem to really know the enemy or the game they are in, and the president's meager and glancing experience in the trenches of politics has caught up with him.

 

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