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Really, What Would Be the Point of Bipartisanship?

The Washington Times reports:

“There are things that, statements that then-candidate Obama made during the campaign over and over and over again that obviously he’s not staying with,” Mr. McCain told The Washington Times in an hour-long interview with reporters and editors.

McCain effectively compiles a list of Obama’s broken campaign promises — trade, nuclear power, and earmarks, to name a few. But nothing is more accurate than his analysis of Obama’s lack of bipartisanship. With substantial credibility on a topic he’s mastered (annoying his own base and defining his political persona), he explains:

” ‘We won, we wrote the bill.’ That applies not just to that bill, but it does to all of the other pieces of legislation, too,” he said, clearly exasperated. “We’re not in on the takeoff, and anybody who calls the stimulus package … bipartisan — you pick off three Republicans? That’s not bipartisanship.”

[. . .]

Mr. Obama, who vowed to change politics as usual in Washington, made a show of bipartisanship as he took office, even throwing an inaugural ball to celebrate his Republican opponent in the presidential race. But since then, Mr. McCain said he has been consulted just once by the administration, when a White House lawyer visited to discuss the closing of Guantanamo Bay.

“Aside from that, I have not known of an occasion where they sit down across the table. Now, there’s been occasions where the president comes and talks to Republicans, the president talks to — et cetera, but that’s not good bipartisanship,” he said. . . .”I’ve been around for a lot of administrations, and the way you address an issue in a bipartisan fashion is you invite somebody over and you sit down at a table and you say, ‘OK, here’s our position on this issue, and here’s what we want — what do you want? What’s your priority? And you sit down and work out an agreement and you come out and you say, like [former Democratic House Speaker] Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan did, that we’ve agreed and we’re going to push this through,” he said.

By now it should be apparent that bipartisanship was an Obama campaign pose meant to allay voters concerns that candidate Obama was a wide-eyed radical bent on taking the country sharply to the Left. Now that he is president, well, he’s pretty much bent on taking the country sharply to the Left. So there’s really nothing to talk about substantively with Republicans. They, of course, would only want to take the country not to the Left.

Bipartisanship per se is never exactly a winning political issue. But policy choices and perceived extremism do motivate and scare voters. It is not the absence of bipartisanship which may hobble Obama, but the reason he has eschewed bipartisanship: his desire to take the country dramatically to the Left. If that’s not where a majority of the country wants to go, he’ll be in trouble. So far, it’s not where many in his party want to go — which accounts for the resistance from his own ranks on everything from card check, to cap-and-trade, to the budget spending bonanza.


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