1/31/2009

Bi-Partisanship is Doing Things My Way!


The are two prongs to bi-partisanship (or non-partisanship or post-partisanship, or whatever the ...-partisanship buzz word of the day happens to be). The first is the dog and pony show. So far, President Obama has done an excellent job at this aspect of bi-partisanship. Going to the Capitol to meet with House Republicans and answering their questions is great public relations for the President. Having a few top Republicans to the White House for dinner with the President and his chief of staff looks great on the network news (both broadcast and cable). Having four Republican members of Congress to your White House Super Bowl Party gets lots of air play on the morning shows (and is probably more fun than the Super Bowl Party that I will be attending).

Let's all agree that President Obama has mastered the first prong of bi-partisanship. Let's analyze the second prong - actions. After all of his talks with Congressional Republicans, the President took no substantive actions to incorporate their ideas into the so called economic stimulus bill. Sure, he forced the House Democratic leadership to remove funding for contraception and sodding of the National Mall, but with was just minor window dressing at best. (And, it had very little, if anything, to do with Republican concerns. It had everything to do with late night comedians and what they said about this type of spending.)

The fact is that Mr. Obama abdicated his leadership in regard to this stimulus package by allowing House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to the write the bill. The Democrats in the House saw this as an opportunity to shove 20 years of Congressional failure on their part into a single bill that would not be subject to the regular appropriations process. Taking Rahm Emanuel's advise, they didn't want to waste a good crisis and loaded this thing up with Christmas gifts that looked like they were under Hilary Clinton's tree.

Had the President exhibited real leadership, the bill would have been authored by the White House. He would have kept his word and ensured that this was a "clean bill" - no earmarks. The spending would have been for true stimulus. Instead, we have billions of dollars going to STD research, the National Endowment for the Arts, to David Obey's son at the National Parks Foundation, and the like.

In his first week and a half on the job, President Obama has shown a lack of leadership, been steamrolled by House members of his own party and broken his campaign promise of reaching out to the other side. It was not a good week for the President and it may signal that the real power for the next four years is at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue - on Capital Hill. As the leader of his party, he need to assert himself if he intends on changing the tone in Washington.

To summarize, not a single suggestion from the Republicans in the House was incorporated into the stimulus bill before it was submitted to the House for a vote. The President showed NO true bi-partisanship. Nothing was done to improve the bill in order to gain a single Republican vote in the House. As you can see, when it comes to the second prong of bi-partisanship, Mr. Obama has yet to do anything. If President Obama really hopes to change the way that Washington works, he better start doing more than hosting Super Bowl Parties. Otherwise, the American people will conclude that he defines bi-partisanship as everyone agreeing to do everything his way, just like an ordinary, partisan politician.

1 comment:

CJ said...

This illustrates even more why the Judd Gregg seat is so important in the senate. It looks like he will stay strong but it is going to be a tough next 2 years regardless. I have a feeling we will see many D losses in 2010 as details of this bill get hammered home to voters for the next two years.