I am sure liberals will love me after I make this suggestion.
All I can wonder is whether this man really is any type of agent of change, as he proposed during the campaign. We on the right have always thought this was more rhetoric than reality. The more I watch him, the more I have come to a simple belief: Mr. Obama is a classic partisan, despite his rhetoric otherwise.
George W. Bush, like Obama, came into office as a politician that would put partisan divides aside. Bush was the uniter; Obama came in as a post-partisan. Bush, unlike Obama, came into office with much debate and contention because of the Florida election mess in 2000. But ultimately, Bush was able to garner some Democratic support for his major initiatives, such as his tax cuts and No Child Left Behind, which was written partially by Ted Kennedy (for good or ill). Remember, Democrats actually voted for Bush’s tax cuts; the Senate passed the bill 65-35 with 15 Democratic votes, and Democratic Senator Zell Miller was actually a co-sponsor of the bill.
Now compare that to the present. Barack Obama could only get three Republican Senators to support his stimulus bill, and it is unlikely that his budget will get any more Republican votes, considering Democrats are even balking at the bill. Now, you can either blame that on Republicans (which Democrats and the media are more than happy to do) or blame it on the President for his lack of effort for bipartisanship. I will take a note from Democrats in the past, who blamed Bush for the lack of bipartisanship, and say that this is largely Mr. Obama’s fault. Consistency avoids hypocrisy.
Mr. Obama is following Mr. Bush’s steps, and taking them a step further. Democrats accused Bush of running a permanent campaign; Barack Obama is turning the permanent campaign into an art form. The problem with an ever lasting campaign is that campaigns tend to polarize and demonize, and that is exactly what this White House is doing. The Economist states the case, and gives a simple answer:
Why is Mr. Obama abandoning of his campaign pledges? Partly because he is surrounded by hard-nosed strategists, such as David Axelrod, who excel at campaigning. But also because he is worried about his political momentum. The administration’s difficulties with various nominees have created an unfortunate impression of incompetence. His poll numbers are sliding. And the combination of pork-stuffed legislation and scandal-riven bail-outs threatens to create a populist backlash.
Others are starting to have the same belief, and some are Obama supporters. The most notable is former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who supported Barack Obama in last years presidential race. However, this week in an interview with the Huffington Post, Chafee appears disturbed by the hyperpartisan way that the Obama administration has appeared in its first months in office.
“The whole appeal of the Obama candidacy was post-partisan, and to get off to that start I thought was surprising,” said the Rhode Island Republican. “Ultimately, the chief executive has so much power, and just as a spectator, I thought the onus was on him to just to make it happen. Get 80-or-so votes on your first big initiative, whatever it is. To get off to that start, really, I was stunned about that vote in the House. Oh, come on! You’ve got to get that first vote, whatever it takes,” Chafee added. “It was kind of sloppily put together or something and it just gave to partisan oxygen.”
Chafee’s comments speak volumes. Chafee, for all practical purposes, has acted like a Democrat for years. He is the most liberal Republican I know. He makes Colin Powell look ocnservative. That said, Chafee is highly critical of the way Obama and his officers have acted in their few weeks in office. However, Chafee isn’t the only moderate Republican with this view.
“On the stimulus everybody voted against it for a number of reasons, some reluctantly and some gladly,” said former Rep. Charlie Bass, a self-described moderate New Hampshire Republican who now heads the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership. “Early on, and I know this because I was in meetings with them, there were a number of Republicans who would have supported the stimulus. But they were abandoned when it became clear Democrats didn’t need them. It was fair-weathered bipartisanship.”
And that really is the point. Mr. Obama doesn’t really understand what it takes to be bipartisan.He keeps on talking about being transformational, without understanding what it takes to accomplish that. To be truly bipartisan you sometimes have to go against your own party’s wishes. Bush went out of his way to act bipartisan with Democrats, naming a building after a Democratic congressman who was ill, and inviting the Kennedy family over to watch movies in the White House. Mr. Obama, too, has had outreach. But to say that Mr. Obama has done anything more than former President Bush in this area is a stretch.
And it isn’t just partisans that are starting to believe that Mr. Obama has become more a traditional politician. In a new Pew Poll, 44% versus 30% of people say that Mr. Obama sides with liberal Democrats more than moderate Democrats. That is a complete reversal of several months ago, when the same number, 44%, said that Mr. Obama was more of a moderate Democrat. Also, although Mr. Obama still has widespread personal support. some of the internal statistics are fascinating. For example, 52% would be against increasing premiums for Medicare for the wealthy; and 48% are against removing agriculture subsidies. Both provisions are ones that have been suggested by this administration. The public is also evenly split on whether the President’s foreclosure plan is a good idea.
Obama has actually got into the grime of political fighting more than Bush. While Bush attempted to be above the fray, Mr. Obama dived right in. First he called out Rush Limbaugh, and had his surrogates start a full frontal assault on the radio show host. This was an unnecessary distraction; or maybe it was a thoughtful, intended distraction. Who knows. Now, I know that Rush is an easy target for liberals, but does the President of the United States really want to get in a fight with a radio show host, even be it the biggest radio personality in America? I think not. It was purely a hyperpolitical move on Obama’s part, and has not helped portray him as the post-partisan he hoped to be.
Here may be the final straw. Failling to convince moderate Democrats, not to mention all Republicans, of the rationale for passing health care reform and carbon taxes now, Mr. Obama is starting to consider using a parliamentary procedure called reconciliation to advance some of the biggest items on the president’s agenda. Reconciliation reduces the number of votes needed to pass legislation in the 100-seat Senate to a simple majority rather than the 60 required to overcome resistance to major bills. The tactic also limits debate to no more than 20 hours and imposes restrictions on amendments. Democrats before 2006 were adamant that reconciliation was wrong; of course, they were in the minority at the time, and Republicans basically didn’t use the procedure for any major bills. Now, Democrats apparently have changed their mind on the ethics of reconciliation.
Use of reconciliation should be considered a ‘nuclear option’. There is no return from that. If Mr. Obama has any hopes of being a less partisan President than his predecessors, than he cannot use the parliamentary procedure. If Democrats go forward, however, that should be the death knell of the post partisan presidency.