Boston Globe: Obama Has Failed at Bipartisanship
Progressive Massachusetts paper exhaustively puts the lie to Obama's post-partisan image.
Republicans have been complaining that, despite his constant stream of rhetoric pleading for bipartisanship, President Obama has been one of the biggest opponents of America's political parties actually working together. Finally, five years after he first took office, even the Boston Globe has expressed disappointment in Obama's empty rhetoric.
A long piece by Matt Viser of The Boston Globe explains how year-by-year and issue-by-issue how President Obama has called for bipartisanship but said “no” to fulfilling that call.
Viser's charge is summed up near the end of his piece: "While [Obama] talks about bipartisanship, he has done little to act it out."
Starting right at the beginning, Viser tells readers that as early as his first year in office, the President broke out his pleas for bipartisanship and his scolding of his opponents for being such obstructionists.
"In fact," Viser writes of Obama, "he wanted to begin meeting monthly with Republican and Democratic leaders to 'show the American people that we can do it together.'"
However, Viser notes, the President never fulfilled that promise of monthly meetings. Worse, he did not even bother meeting with GOP leader Boehner for another year and a half.
"In nearly five years in office," Viser writes, "Obama has met individually with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell two times, according to a review of White House visitor logs, pool reports, and press releases. Obama did initially hold regular meetings with other members of the congressional leadership; after several months those sessions became sporadic."
"Obama’s talk of uniting the nation often has not translated into, to use military parlance, 'boots on the ground,'" Viser writes.
He has visited Democrat-leaning "blue" states six times more often than he has visited Republican "red" states. He has staffed much of his administration with people who grew up in blue states. None of his major legislative accomplishments--the stimulus, health care, and financial reforms--received more than six Republican votes.
Viser goes on to blame the poisoned atmosphere of Washington politics partially on Obama, because for all his talk of a "purple" America—half red and half blue—the President has governed solely from the left without actually reaching across the aisle as he keeps claiming everyone else should.
The Globe even reports that on Obama's 2009 inaugural night, conservatives were ready to muddle through and work with Obama if he tracked to the center like all his lofty rhetoric led the country to believe he would. And the man suggesting the moderate route was none other than Newt Gingrich.
“We said that night, he’s going to go one of two ways. If he goes to the center we’ve got to find a way to negotiate and see who co-opts who,” Viser reports that Gingrich said. “If he goes left, we should oppose him on a draconian basis.”
"Within days, it became clear which path each side would take," the Globe writer sorrowfully points out.
Unfamiliar with what Obama actually did in the Illinois legislature, Viser seems confused as to why a state senator that had such cordial meetings with Republicans in Illinois would become such a hardliner in Washington.
Consequently, Visier assigns a portion of the blame to the GOP.
But, while Obama was often quite cordial with Illinois Republicans in the 1990s and early 2000s, he was never a deal maker. Like his record in Washington, his short career in the state capitol is filled with many claims of bipartisanship and a long record of hard-left votes. He never compromised, though he was without a doubt nicer to his opposition back then.
The writer is better on Obama’s record in D.C., though. Viser goes on to recount the many times that he rammed through his agenda without bothering to get any support from the GOP, how he isolated Republican leadership, and ignored the desires of the millions of American voters those Republicans represent.
There was Obama's ramming through of the stimulus, his push for Dodd-Frank, his focus on Obamacare, all of which he and his party pushed through Congress without the support of many Republicans—in some cases with no support of the GOP at all. In fact, Viser notes, Obama rammed these things through without even bothering to try and get any GOP support in the first place.
All this was despite John Boehner signaling a desire to work with Obama on these issues, and despite the hopeful talk from GOP moderates such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain who were often heard trying to flatter the President as a great fellow in order to soften the harsh relationship he had built, Viser said.
"If Obama wanted to make music, he always seemed to be the conductor telling everyone else how to play—rather than joining in the ensemble himself," Viser writes.
As president, Obama has taken more trips to South Korea (three) than he has to South Carolina (zero). He’s been to Ghana but never to Utah. He’s visited the citizens of Denmark (twice) more frequently than the residents of Kentucky (once).
Overall during his presidency, Obama has spent an average of less than four days in each of the red states he lost in 2012, while he has spent an average of 23 days in each of the blue states he won, according to an analysis of data compiled by Mark Knoller of CBS News. He’s made 428 visits to blue states and 75 visits to red states.
Despite several attempts to blame the Republicans for all this, the picture Viser paints is one of a President who does not feel there is a need to work with the opposition. Viser’s portrait is that of a stiff man who not only fails to work with the opposition but completely ignores them and discounts them—despite his lofty rhetoric to the contrary.