Barack Obama has been President for just over three weeks. But even this early into the Age of Obama, we can, I think, make a valuable assessment on where things stand.
On the plus side for Obama, by later this month he will have achieved, in almost record time, a huge legislative victory: passage of a trillion dollar (more or less) economic package. His approval rating remains high. And he showed at his press conference on Monday that he is an extremely skilled communicator, one of the best we have ever seen. He is unquestionably the best spokesman Democrats have, and he comes across as reasonable, intelligent, and likeable (if long-winded and sometimes lecturing). But none of that is new; those talents, after all, were on full display during the campaign.
What is surprising is how many mishaps have taken place and how many damaging developments have accrued. One of the key pillars of Obama’s campaign and his popularity was his commitment to bipartisanship. But that promise, like Jeremiah Wright, Tom Daschle, and others, has been tossed under the Obama bus. President Obama essentially admitted as much at his press conference earlier this week, when he said that bipartisanship would have to take a back-seat to passage of the economic legislation he wanted.
It’s not simply that Obama gained no Republican votes in the House for his plan, and got only three in the Senate. It is that Obama himself never made a serious play at bipartisan cooperation. What he did was allow Nancy Pelosi and liberal House Democrats to write the legislation. Republicans were shut out. And once the legislation emerged, Republicans were asked to come on board. They politely but emphatically declined. It turns out spending a few hours with the GOP caucus and hosting a Super Bowl party does not constitute authentic bipartisanship.
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