GOP stabs Obama in the backBarack Obama has only been president since Jan. 20, but he’s already learned a powerful lesson: Bipartisanship is a myth. At least, it’s a
By: Bill Press, The Dickinson Press
Barack Obama has only been president since Jan. 20, but he’s already learned a powerful lesson: Bipartisanship is a myth. At least, it’s a myth at this time in Washington, with this gang of negative, out-of-touch, calcified Republicans led by the clueless John Boehner.
God knows he tried. Even before being sworn in as president, Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with House and Senate Republicans. In his first week in office, he invited Republican leaders to the White House. But he didn’t stop there. In a gesture seldom seem in partisan-bound Washington — how often did George W. Bush go to Congress to meet with Democrats?
Obama drove up to Capitol Hill to have lunch with Republican members.
Both in his speeches and actions, Obama’s extended the hand of bipartisanship to Republicans. And how did they respond? By stabbing him in the back. When his $819 billion stimulus package came up on the House floor, not one Republican voted for it. Not one. So much for bipartisanship.
Obama’s wasting his time seeking bipartisanship. Not that it’s not a worthy goal. In fact, that’s just what the American people want: for leaders of both parties to put aside their differences, sit down together, and get to work solving problems. And, clearly, working in a bipartisan manner is what Obama wants. But not Republicans. They chose, instead, to reject the will of the American people, ignore the grave economic crisis facing the nation, and slap, not shake, the hand of friendship Barack Obama extended across the aisle.
Why? Because Republicans care more about their party than their country. They can’t stand the idea that Obama might actually fix our ailing economy and get credit for it. They don’t want him to succeed. As right-wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh, the real leader of the Republican Party, recently declared: “I want him to fail.”
Think about that. If Obama fails, the economy fails even more. If Obama fails, millions more Americans lose their homes and jobs. If Obama fails, America fails. But Republicans don’t care. They care only about how best to win back political power — which they believe, misled by Limbaugh, will happen only if they oppose everything Obama stands for. They want him to fail.
What a big mistake. Didn’t Republicans learn anything under Bill Clinton? In 1993, facing a much milder economic downturn, President Clinton crafted his own economic recovery plan and also reached out for bipartisan support. But Republicans refused to cooperate. Newt Gingrich warned that Clinton’s plan would create a deep recession. So Clinton, too, had to settle for enacting an economic plan with not one Republican vote. The result? Eight years of the most sustained non-wartime economic growth in our history.
There is, however, one difference. Knowing how popular Obama is, today’s Republicans don’t blame the president himself for their problems with the stimulus. They don’t dare. Instead, they blame Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and that’s absurd. The stimulus plan was written by the Obama transition team. It was sent to Congress by the Obama White House. It’s Obama’s plan. In fact, attempting to appease Republicans, Obama dropped the only part of the package Pelosi personally championed: expanding family planning under Medicaid. He wasted his time. It didn’t win one Republican vote. Again, so much for bipartisanship.
Every explanation given by Republicans for opposing the Obama stimulus package falls flat. They say it doesn’t offer enough tax cuts. Wrong. It includes $275 billion in tax cuts for Americans making less than $250,000 a year, instead of the wealthiest Americans who benefited from Bush’s tax cuts.
Republicans also complain about spending so much money. Wrong again. Yes, the price tag is high. But only because the Bush-created economic hole we have to climb out of is so deep. And notice that these same Republicans who now complain about dollars to help Main Street had no problem spending $700 billion to bail out Wall Street or over even more to “liberate” Iraq.
Indeed, it’s hard to understand what Republicans are up to. They buck the most popular president since Reagan. They do nothing to fix the economy. They fiddle while America burns. That’s not political courage. That’s political suicide.
For his part, Obama took the high road. “What we can’t do is drag our feet or allow the same partisan differences to get in our way,” he said after the vote. If only one Republican were listening.
— Press hosts a nationally-syndicated radio show and is author of a new book, “Train Wreck: The End of the Conservative Revolution (and Not a Moment Too Soon).”