Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Obama Makes Friends; GOP Still The Meanie

Now that President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package into law with a smidgen of bipartisan support, what's next on the "working with the other guys" front?

The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg believes the President will not shelve his support of reaching out to Congressional Republicans. He even goes so far to compare his resolve to that of the Civil Rights leaders and even Ghandi.

Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if—or especially if—the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it’s not Rovian hardball he’s playing. More like Gandhian hardball.

If Obama continues this gambit in wooing Republicans without compromise he could seriously anger the left--a constituency that feels it was purposely denied access to government by the Bush administration for eight years. Will Obama spend energy on the GOP regarding health care or even the likely next confrontation over the Treasury's $2 billion overhaul of the banking industry? Unfortunately, if Obama sticks to his plan of attack, Washington may be on the verge of grinding to a halt in a wholly different way to when the Senate was virtually 50-50.

As noted last week and lampooned on Saturday Night Live, the GOP leadership has a plan for the next 18 months--obstructionism followed by the framing of the poor economy as solely Obama's baby.

Reverting back to ones childhood might be instructive. How many times do you attempt to play friendly with the kid who had all the cool toys, but did not allow you to partake in the fun? Once? Twice? By the third time you either found another friend or push the kid into the shrubs. If Republicans don't play nice, eventually Democrats are going to begin shoving conservatives into the icy Potomac.

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