It’s good to know that the term “Beltway Bubble” applies beyond just the circular roadway a mile from my house out in the suburbs of Washington DC. It looks like there is another cocoon in another old dwelling of mine in the city of Atlanta, as evidenced by this bit of insanity from Cynthia Tucker. Ms. Tucker’s thesis is that President Obama’s political problems stem from trying too hard to cooperate with Republicans. Buckle yourselves in for a ride aboard the crazy train.
Amplified by the right-wing message machine, Republicans paint President Obama as an unyielding left-winger, an unreconstructed liberal who refuses to compromise. The president’s critics have turned the truth inside out: One of Obama’s greatest political weaknesses has been his stubborn — and unrequited — love for bipartisanship.
Ahh yes, we begin with a variation on David Brock’s term, “the Republican noise machine.” As we all know conservative critique of Democratic administration policies can be rooted in one thing, and one thing only: absolutely irrational fear. We all remember the heady days of yore when President Bush was in charge and Democrats did nothing but yield sheepishly to his every demand, never bothering to obstruct him in any way ( pay no attention to the filibustered judges behind that curtain).
And then of course there is the track record of the true Cincinnatus of our time, the noble guardian of our republic, the selfless President Obama. Yes, his unrequited love for bipartisanship just shines through in his vast public record. Let’s count all the times as Senator and President that Barack Obama has worked tirelessly with his Republican foes to forge a consensus on some major issue.
. . . .
And who can forget the countless times that President Obama has shown his love for compromise and conciliation, like when he told John McCain at the Health Care Summit, “we’re not campaigning anymore John, the election’s over” when Senator McCain deigned to express his misgivings about the health care bill. And his true love for bipartisanship shines through again and again whenever Obama takes the stump and never dares to impugn Republican motives, but rather sticks to the merits of the issues. Oh. Wait. What’s the opposite of that?
See what the other side is counting on, what they’re counting on is you’re gonna stay home. They’re counting on your silence. They’re counting on your amnesia. They’re counting on your apathy. They’re countin’ on young people staying home and union members stayin’ home, and black folk stayin’ home.
Ms. Tucker continues.
The president has made some of his biggest mistakes trying to woo a GOP opposition that has committed itself to frustrating him at every turn. If he had ignored recalcitrant Republicans, for example, his health care legislation might have become law without months of damaging political drama.
Yes, let’s just ignore everyone who disagrees with him and just ram legislation through. But here’s the thing: Obama did this anyway. The reason for the delay wasn’t because he was working with Republicans in order to win votes – he had huge majorities in both Houses of Congress. His own party wasn’t sold on the health care bill, and it took an impressive amount of bargaining and out and out bribery in order to get his own party to support him.
In an interview last week in his West Wing office, David Axelrod, one of Obama’s closest advisers, acknowledged that the administration had been surprised by the unified Republican resistance to the president’s agenda.
“Well, I think we miscalculated,” Axelrod said. “We had the idea that, particularly in a time of national crisis, there would be more of an inclination to work together.
“One of the bracing moments was when the president was on his way over . . to Capitol Hill to talk to the Republican House caucus about the Recovery Act. They issued a press release while he was on his way over to say that they were going to vote en masse against it. And that was a signal . . of things to come.”
Wait a second, wait a second. Do you mean to tell me that the opposition party had the temerity to oppose measures they disliked?
So far it doesn’t appear that Ms. Tucker has done anything but complain about the fact that Republicans just didn’t roll over and play dead like the administration, the national media, and even certain journalists on the right expected them to do. Granted that bipartisanship in Washington really just means Republicans doing what Democrats want them to do, but this is a new low.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February 2009 without a single vote from a Republican in the House and the backing of just three in the Senate, even though nearly a third of it came in the form of tax cuts — usually a GOP tool for fixing anything. Most economists have credited the stimulus package with creating jobs and helping to end the recession, but Republicans continue to denounce it as boondoggle that blew a hole in the federal budget.
Yeah, there was also that whole trillions of dollars meant to fund those “shovel ready” jobs. It turns out something was being shoveled, all right, but not too many jobs were actually being created. And “most economists” in Tucker speak probably means her pals inside the Beltway Bubble.
After the stimulus, Obama and his Democratic allies tried to negotiate with GOP leaders on health insurance reform — a decision that gave critics time to mischaracterize the proposal and gin up opposition. Remember death panels? Government-funded abortions? Rationing?
Yeah, I do. All of those things are actually in the bill. It’s called pointing out the flaws in a major piece of legislation, but once again in the world of Cynthia Tucker doing anything by rolling over is considered a grave evil that threatens the very lifeblood of the republic.
Jumping ahead a little, there’s this whopper:
A naïve expectation of bipartisan cooperation hasn’t been Obama’s only mistake. He waited until the last possible moment to try to inspire his base for the mid-term elections. Unlike Ronald Reagan, whose poll ratings were slightly lower than Obama’s just before the 1982 mid-term elections, Obama didn’t take every possible opportunity to pin the economic mess on his predecessor.
You have got to be kidding me. Blaming Bush is essentially the core theme of the Democratic campaign. That Cynthia Tucker can write such a paragraph indicates that she is incredibly obtuse or just pathological, though I suppose the two are not mutually exclusive.
And waiting for the last second to campaign? President Obama never stopped campaigning. I cannot remember a president in my lifetime who has been this non conciliatory and blatantly partisan. Sure President Clinton would throw barbs, but he reserved most of his ammo for the actual campaign, and in comparison was less willing to question the motivations of his opponents than the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Again, this is really just one big great whine. Individuals like Tucker expected Obama to swoop in and bring about fifty years of Progressive rule. Fueled by a major economic crisis, President Obama was going to ignite change that would galvanize the public and fundamentally reshape America. People on the left and right thought that the left was not only ascendant, but perhaps could hold an almost endless majority. It took less than two years for all that to be completely wiped away.
The funny thing is that for people like Tucker, they pretty much got everything they wanted. President Obama and the Democratic party have initiated major policy changes. Probably the only plank that failed was cap and trade, and even that might be rendered moot thanks to EPA regulations that will prove to be far more onerous than the legislative proposals that have been bandied about. But instead of rejoicing in these victories, Tucker here throws a hissy fit. But if Ms. Tucker wants to know why President Obama is about to suffer a major political setback, she needs to realize it’s because the entire premise of her article is backwards. It is President Obama’s intransigence and unwillingness to see the unpopularity of his program that will bring about his party’s defeat this fall. If Obama had done more than pay lip service to bi-partisanship and compromise, he would not nearly be in as much trouble. But such an admission would entail the sort of self-reflection hacks like Cynthia Tucker are incapable of.