Obama Not Post-Partisan ... No, Seriously, He's Not
Bill McGurn writes at The Wall Street Journal:
Only last summer we were told that Barack Obama’s political appeal rested on his vision for a “post-partisan future.” The post-partisan future was one of the press corps’ favorite phrases. It served as shorthand for the candidate’s repeated references to “unity of purpose,” looking beyond a red or blue America, and so on.
Six months into the president’s term, you don’t read much about this post-partisan future anymore. It may be because on almost every big-ticket legislative item (the stimulus, climate change, and now health care), Mr. Obama has been pushing a highly ideological agenda with little (and in some cases zero) support from across the aisle. Yet far from stating the obvious—that sitting in the Oval Office is a very partisan president—the press corps is allowing Mr. Obama to evade the issue by coming up with novel redefinitions.
The redefinition started during the stimulus debate, but it really picked up steam late last month with David Axelrod’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” There the president’s chief strategist explained that a bill didn’t need Republican votes to be “bipartisan”; it was enough if Republican “ideas” were included. A few days earlier, Rahm Emanuel had offered reporters another redefinition, suggesting that a bill was bipartisan if people merely “saw the president trying” to get Republicans on board.
The president’s inflexibility is having an interesting effect—on Democrats. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D., Mont.), believes he would attract Republican votes if the bill helped pay for the expanded health care by subjecting employer-provided health benefits to the same taxes imposed on individual plans. He has also complained that the president is “making it difficult” to get a bill through. Surely it says something about Mr. Obama’s partisanship that this complaint issues from the one Democratic leader committed to producing a bipartisan health-care bill.
Mr. Baucus is not the only one. Other Democratic pols, especially those from the more conservative states, do not relish the prospect of being on the hook for a health-care package that even the Congressional Budget Office says will raise health costs rather than lower them. Nor do they appreciate the ads the president is now running in their states via the Democratic National Committee. These ads target moderate Democrats in an effort to pressure them into passing the president’s health-care proposal quickly.
Back when George W. Bush was in the Oval Office, the press routinely characterized almost everything he and the GOP Congress did as partisan. While it’s true that some parts of his agenda were passed on a purely partisan basis—most notably, the 2003 tax cuts pushed through the Senate with the deciding vote cast by Vice President Dick Cheney—this was the exception rather than the rule. In fact, many of the most far-reaching bills pushed by President Bush—the Patriot Act, the war-funding bills, No Child Left Behind, the Medicare drug benefit, etc.—were in the end passed with a healthy number of Democratic votes.
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Catholic Teaching and Political Risk Taking: When Credit Isn't Given Where Credit is Due [UPDATED]
Obama "Post-Partisan"? Ask John Roberts
Obama and the "Pragmatic Center"