Blame it on Scott Brown. Blame it on poll numbers which all seem to be shifting in one direction. Hell, maybe we should blame it on Rio. Whatever the reason, President Obama took the hopefully productive step of visiting with Republican legislators this week. While there were a few tense, testy and factually challenged moments, the conversation seemed engaging and ideas were floated where some common ground might be found between the President’s agenda and the goals of Republicans in a variety of areas. While it’s far too early to get our hopes up, we might just see some progress out of this.
The event elicited some awfully strange responses, though. What should have been seen as a potential moment of true bipartisan efforts and possible progress got some of the Democratic Party’s most ardent supporters up in arms. Leading the charge was Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen, who seems to think the entire affair was more posturing and that the Republicans are locked into a self-destructive cycle.
It’s one thing for party officials just outside the decision-making center to raise concerns; it’s something else when someone with actual power and direct influence shares those concerns.
And at this point, Republicans realize that they’re taking obstructionism to levels unprecedented in American history, and they realize that the public may disapprove, but they’re willing to take the risk.
I’ll be the first to agree that the GOP has done a pretty effective job of holding ranks against proposals which run absolutely counter to essential conservative principles, but did Steve really just try to describe this as obstructionism which is “unprecedented in American history?” While our history goes back a couple of centuries or more, we need not look all that far. I mean, we’re talking about the same Democratic Party which held up elements of the Bush 2 administration’s goals to the point where Republicans were foolishly talking about a nuclear option. It’s the same party that broke with centuries of standard – if flawed – practice and began calling five minute legislative sessions into order on a weekly basis to prevent the President from making recess appointments.
(I would like to parenthetically point out here that I oppose the practice of recess appointments entirely in the modern age, and would frankly like to see a constitutional amendment to eliminate the practice. But the larger point here is that, flawed though the practice may be, it is the constitutionally mandated practice which has been in place since the nation began and the Democrats were most certainly acting in an “unprecedented” way to thwart it.)
Quibbling over recent history aside, Benen’s commentary brings us back full circle to the bogus but oft repeated charges made by Democrats and their obedient MSM surrogates that the Republicans “have no ideas” on the issues of the day and aren’t trying to participate. Health care is only the latest example. As we have pointed out in this space on multiple occasions (apparently to deaf ears) the GOP’s Paul Ryan introduced his own health care reform bill last year and has recently brought it forward once again. There are elements in there which both parties could agree on if they wanted to start over with a leaner, more efficient reform package.
It seems to me that Obama is a good enough politician that he can read the writing on the wall. He’s going to have to start dealing with a significantly more powerful Republican force in Congress next year and seems to be laying the groundwork to get something done. Smart for the Republicans. Smart for Obama. The problem is, a lot of the President’s most liberal supporters are clearly having a hard time coping with the idea of both parties having some input to the governmental process. They’ll come along kicking and screaming sooner or later, but for now it’s going to remain The Audacity of Cope.