Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bipartisanship, Chicago Style

President Barack Obama was invited to a Republican function yesterday where he took questions from Republicans in an attempt to reach out to them. This was all a part of the Administration's attempt to make the President appear less partisan and more willing to work with the GOP in the aftermath of the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts. And what did he do?

Gave lip service to the Republicans about being more bipartisan while attacking them for blocking his agenda.

Okay, I'm willing to believe Obama may be serious about working with Republicans in the future, but this isn't the way to forge a new relationship. The question I have is whether it was a serious attempt, given the past year. From the beginning of his Administration, Obama said he wanted to reach across the aisle to fix the problems of this country. When given chances to do that, he hasn't. What he has done, though is used Republicans as scapegoats for everything that's wrong with the country right now. Granted, this isn't unexpected, but it is rather troubling for someone who ran on being a uniter to be do divisive.

The Republicans bear some responsibility for this, too. Congressional Republicans have dug in and tried doing as much as they could to delay or derail the President's agenda, such as it was. Yet, they didn't have the numbers to do much derailing. Although they may not have been the most willing to work with the President, I can't think of a time when Obama reached out to Republicans in a meaningful way. What he has done is rubbed the Republicans' noses in his victory whenever possible. Remember the "I won" comment after an early meeting with Congressional leaders?

I think Obama's trying to play both sides of the political spectrum with this new approach. He needs to keep his left flank happy by attacking Republicans while at least sounding like he's trying to work with Republicans to appease his right flank and the Independents who voted for him. After a year of playing to his left flank, though, his strategy to move towards the center may not work because it isn't credible. It looks like an act of political expediency more than principle.

My only piece of advice to the President on this is if he's really holding out an olive branch to the Republicans as a sign he wants to work with them, he'd better not be hiding the hatchet he used to cut down that branch behind his back.

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