President Obama’s outreach to the GOP during his first weeks in office is apparently paying dividends while debiting the GOP’s nearly bankrupt account.
Most Americans said the president was trying to make good on his promise to bridge the partisan divide. About three-quarters, including 6 in 10 Republicans, said Mr. Obama had been trying to work with Republicans. But only 3 in 10 Americans said Republicans were doing the same.
Many point to the votes on the stimulus package as evidence that he’s not succeeding in actually accomplishing bipartisanship. But does it matter? Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gave a remarkably candid assessment.
“The public wants bipartisanship,” he said. “We just have to try. We don’t have to succeed.”
I’ve argued from he outset that he and the Congressional Democratic leaders have played a fairly effective game of good cop/bad cop. It is nearly impossible to change many minds about the partisanship of Nancy Pelosi (or the fecklessness of Harry Reid). So why not make her the bad cop? In fact, it hasn’t hurt Congressional Democrats who are still viewed more positively than their GOP colleagues.
Sure, the public would like to see greater comity in political discourse, but not at the cost of ineffectuality or gridlock. Such a result would paint Obama and both naive and a failure. Some argued that by his reaching out and grasping only air and insults he diminished his brand. But I think it was a smart political ploy — and a ploy may have been all it was and is.
In fact, his one mistake was to endorse the initial package with more tax cuts and less infrastructure development that it has. The GOP still stonewalled it. He probably could have gotten a better balanced bill by offering a less balanced bill and then compromised a little in response to GOP complaints. (His other mistake was to let the House Dems write the package.) Yet his brand is still strong and the GOP seems to be imploding.
The GOP, who raised a hue and cry when the Dems would force a cloture vote, are quickly losing credibility as the number of cloture votes the GOP forced has doubled the Dems. If the GOP thinks that bipartisanship means they get to write half of each bill, they don’t understand election mandates. Fortunately, I think the public does.