One hundred days into office, Barack Obama's list of accomplishments is certainly immense. From the budget, passed by the Senate on Wednesday night, to a stimulus package, the current administration has put in place an economic framework that will shape domestic policy for decades to come. Those achievement, however, have come at a cost to another tenet of the Obama agenda: the dawning of a bipartisan age.
Only three Republican members of Congress in total cast votes in favor of the aforementioned proposals. One of those, Sen. Arlen Specter, decided that life would flow more swimmingly if he changed party affiliations.
Confronted by the fact that, in his words, "there is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place even when we're in the middle of really big crises," Obama offered a stricter definition of what he views as a Washington bipartisan. The GOP, in short, has to start meeting him half way.
"Simply opposing our approach on every front is probably not a good political strategy," Obama declared at Thursday night's prime time news conference. "I want them to realize that me reaching out to them has been genuine."
To his "Republican friends," Obama offered something of a rebuke for their conduct just 100 days into his administration. "I can't sort of define bipartisanship as simply being willing to accept certain theories of theirs that we tried for eight years and didn't work."
In particular, he laid the groundwork for compromise on what promises to be the next big partisan hurdle. "I've said this to people like [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell. I said, 'Look, on health care reform, you may not agree with me that I've -- we should have a public plan. That may be philosophically just too much for you to swallow. On the other hand, there are some areas like reducing the cost of medical malpractice insurance where you do agree with me. If I'm taking some of your ideas and giving you credit for good ideas, the fact that you didn't get 100 percent can't be a reason every single time to oppose my position."
Certainly the White House was not naïve to the realities that the Republican Party would oppose vast swaths of its agenda. But the extent of opposition (not on all policies, but the major ones) has been remarkable. And the Specter defection not only underscores just how lacking the GOP is of moderate members, but how difficult it will continue to be to secure bi-partisan achievements. The pressure to toe the party line, even Obama acknowledged, was that dominating.
"I do think that having Arlen Specter in the Democratic Caucus will liberate him to cooperate on critical issues like health care, like infrastructure, and job creation," he said, "areas where his inclinations were to work with us but he was feeling pressure not to."