With an eye on the ruthlessly partisan strategies, tactics and proposed policies of the Republican contenders for the White House, former New York Times columnist Frank Rich assigns a poor grade to Obama’s efforts to reach across the aisle while Americans are driven mad by an economy in disrepair.
“Sometimes blacks and whites, liberals and conservatives, and moms and dads cannot reconcile their differences,” he writes. “Sometimes the negotiations and compromises that are the crux of politics are nonoperative. This is one of those times. The other side has no interest in striking grand bargains or even small ones. It wants not so much to reform government, a worthy goal, as to auction off its parts and distribute the proceeds to its corporate backers.” —ARK
Frank Rich in New York Magazine:
As these elites see it, Obama must always hold his fire because we are perennially just one step away from the nirvana of national unity, no matter how glaring the evidence to the contrary. A classic example was a David Brooks column headlined “The Grand Bargain Lives!” published on July 22 of this year and predicting an Obama–John Boehner mind meld on a far-reaching debt-reduction deal. That same day, embarrassingly enough, those negotiations collapsed, with Obama complaining that Boehner hadn’t returned his calls and Boehner stating that “the deal was never reached, and was never really close.” Brooks, who also flogged the unheeded Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission as “the only way to realistically fix this problem,” has merely picked up where the Polonius of bipartisan Washington punditry, David Broder of the Washington Post, left off when he died in March. So beguiled was Broder after the “Gang of Fourteen” halted filibusters (temporarily) on judicial appointments that in 2007 he wrote that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell had “forged a personal relationship of unusual trust,” setting off a “powerful current toward consensus building” in the Senate.
This delusional faith in comity reached its apotheosis in the debt-ceiling showdown. With the reliable exception of Paul Krugman, who shuns Washington and calls centrism “the cult that is destroying America,” almost every Establishment observer in our own time bought into the magical thinking that the radical Republicans would never go so far as to risk a default of the American government. Only when the tea-party cabal in the House took Washington hostage did it fully dawn on the Beltway gentry that the country was in danger. But even now, Obama keeps being urged to make nice with the rebels so that he can woo independents, who, we’re constantly told, value bipartisanship every bit as much as the pundits do. The “all-important independent voters,” as the “Lexington” columnist at The Economist recycled the conventional wisdom earlier this month, “are said to be looking for a president who defuses partisan tensions, rather than inflaming them.” Said by whom? Mainly other Washington bloviators.
Flickr / Anthony Baker