Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 19, 2009

HIGH BRODERISM.... It is, in some ways, as predictable as the sunrise -- David Broder will write a column touting the benefits of bipartisan cooperation, criticizing those who believe otherwise. Today's installment is more of the same, urging President Obama to look beyond "the Democratic side of the aisle."

[T]he real reason Obama should ignore this advice is that he will need Republican votes to pass the remaining parts of his program.

Broder proceeds to run through a litany of policy areas -- energy, healthcare, immigration, entitlements, trade, and foreign policy -- where, he argues, the president will be well served by engaging Republicans directly, at least if he intends to get anything done.

I think Broder misunderstands the criticism. The problem isn't that bipartisanship is inherently bad, or that President Obama might simply blow off the failed minority party altogether. Putting aside concerns about propriety, so long as Republicans mandate a Senate supermajority to pass any and all legislation, that's not even a practical option available to the White House.

Rather, the concern here is two-fold. First, while the president shouldn't give up on reaching out to Republicans, he should de-emphasize it. The goal has to be the value of the policy, not the nature of the process. Republicans oppose the president's agenda. Given the GOP's role, they're supposed to oppose the president's agenda. Why, then, govern with their wish list in mind? This isn't to say the White House should disregard Republican input altogether, it's simply a reminder that putting "bipartisanship" at the top of the priority list doesn't make sense.

Second, it's only prudent to recognize that the Republican minority has no apparent interest in being a credible governing partner, and no intention to negotiate honestly. After the last couple of weeks, I'd hoped that was obvious. As Joe Klein recently argued, the president "should have no illusions about the good faith of his opponents."

Broder, naturally, wants to see Republican outreach. I don't doubt that this will happen. In fact, since governing with Democratic votes exclusively isn't a realistic option right now, Broder is offering a prescription to a problem that doesn't really exist.

Steve Benen 10:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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As even Joe Klein recently argued, the president "should have no illusions about the good faith of his opponents."

Fixed.


 
 
 
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Posted by: That Settles It on February 19, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently Broder thinks he's going to wake up one morning and McCain will be in the White House--and Broder won't have to learn a bunch of new names to be obsequious to, and poor Sally won't have to ask Those People to her salon and watch them dump all that sugar into her oolong.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on February 19, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Since time immemorial, the Village ideal politician has been a moderate Republican. Problem is that there are no moderate Republicans in the House, and exactly three in the Senate. When, eventually, Franken is seated in the Senate, I predict that exactly three senators will become exactly two, both from Maine.

Here's a question for Broder: Who, currently in the House, are you suggesting that Obama be bipartisan with?

Posted by: MattF on February 19, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

I would be much more inclined to pay attention to Broder (which still wouldn't be very much) if he addressed all these encomia about bipartisanship to the Publicans - you know, the ones who are actually not practicing it.

Posted by: Stephen1947 on February 19, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Since the Republicans are, as when they were in power, interested only in making sure nothing gets done, bipartisanship is inherently self-defeating. Broder's big concern seems to be that his carefully cultivated friends and contacts no longer do him any good. All these guys fear their irrelevancy, and they're right. Time to move on.

Posted by: ericfree on February 19, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Do you know that if you go back to 1969, when Broder advocated that Democrats cooperate with newly-elected Richard Nixon - because he knew what it would take to take care of the mess in Vietnam - that this moronic dickwad has never been right about anything??? You ought to read what he had to say about Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate to see how stupid Public Stupidity can get.

If people would just ignore this drooling idiot, perhaps he'd dry up and blow away.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 19, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Bipartisanship is a two way street - a concept Broder doesn't seem to get.

It is not about one party giving up everything. It is not about one party getting everything. It is a give and take where you give and get. I get tired of the Washington establishment press corp not understanding that concept. Average Americans have a better grasp on this than those that inhabit the nooks and crannies of D.C.

Posted by: ET on February 19, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Why do these supposed thinkers think 'Heads I win, tails you lose' is a reasonable position? Repubs win because they stick together. Dems lose because they aren't bi-partisan enough. The repubs, who have lost badly the last two elections, hold the Senate hostage to unpopular policy and idioloy. The Broderific solution is for Dems to do whatever repubs want.

I don't recall Broder calling on repubs to work with the Dems when they were in power. As a matter of fact, I seem to recall the opposite. Dems were supposed to set aside their differences and do what repubs wanted.

As right wingers go, Broder is several levels saner that Limbaugh, Coulter, et al. But that doesn't make 'Heads I win, tails you lose' a rational perspective.

Posted by: JoeW on February 19, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

the president will be well served by engaging Republicans directly

You mean like Obama already has, David? How'd that work out?

Why, then, govern with their wish list in mind?

Because the Republican wish list is Broder's wish list.

Posted by: ckelly on February 19, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

How come he didn't include in his self-serving editorial the fact that when Obama asked Richard Lugar to travel with him to Indiana, when Obama went there to talk to those folks in Elkhart, that Lugar refused ? Or that when he just went down to Arizona for the same reasons, and he asked both McCain and that other pig senator from Arizona to go with him, that both not only refused by set up an opposing press conference ? How about when he asked these two Repiglican senators to simply watch the super bowl with him and, again, they both refused.

Broader also said in an editorial at the beginning of 2008 that Bush would recover his popularity with the American people and leave office with a 45 percent approval rating. How did that turn out Broader ?

Posted by: stormskies on February 19, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree with Steven to some extent in that I do think bi-partisanship is about process. It's about recovering the democratic process by moving away from "faith-based" ideology and toward "reality-based" pragmatism, common sense, and empiricism. Extremists in both parties have a vested interest in polarization and stalemate because they are revolutionaries by nature, not democrats. They don't care about solving real-world problems. That's not why they got involved in politics in the first place. They don't want to build things. They want to tear them down, "purify the culture," beat up on people they dispise. To these people politics isn't politics at all. It's war, a grim fight to the death.

Bi-partisanship doesn't mean we have to abandon our disagreements or party loyalties. It just means we have those disagreements differently. It means we have a real debate about the real pros and cons of our policy in Iraq, for example, not whether being against the war labels you a traitor, or for the war a fascist. Bi-partisanship, in other words, is accepting and acting on the fact that we are all Americans.

Posted by: Ted Frier on February 19, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

"reality-based" pragmatism, common sense, and empiricism.

The party which was elected on that platform was the Democratic party and was opposed due to those very ideas by the Republican party.

Posted by: Tyro on February 19, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

so long as Senate Democrats acquiesce to a supermajority to pass any and all legislation, that's not even a practical option available to the White House.

Fixed.

Posted by: Gregory on February 19, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

A better idea towards bi-partisan reconciliation/capitulation could be had if Nancy would just allow the Republican side of the aisle to only have to work 3 days a week, as they were fond of back in them there good ol' days. Casual Fridays might help too. Anyone who's ever had to deal with an addiction problem in the household should understand that cold turkey is too hard a pill to swallow and definitely too difficult to live with. That's why Methadone was created.

The Senate is a whole nuther problem filled with too many mine field "Moderate Dems", which is code for; they would never have been elected to office with an (R) after their name in their states.( I'm thinking DiFi, Schumer etc.) Maybe more cocktail parties?

Posted by: maya on February 19, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

I think Obama would have preferred -- and expected -- to build bipartisanship through some early issues that enjoy broad bipartisan support, such as expanding the SCHIP program. Ironically, it was the Republicans who scuttled that approach by their partisan policies of the last eight years now forcing an economic stimulus package to be the first big issue. Republicans never could have been bipartisan on this issue -- the very thing that defines them as Republican make them useless on economics at this level. Their ideas weren't so much rejected for being Republican as they were rejected for being bad policy. But, perhaps, down the road, there will be another opportunity for them to behave responsibly...or shove their pointy heads further up their flabby asses out of spite.

Posted by: Walt Maguire on February 19, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Columnists like Broder and Will have to churn out one or two columns every week and I'm sure they have to grasp at whatever they can since they can't come up with new take or perspective on an issue every time they sit down to meet a deadline.

This time it sounds like Broder fell asleep at his desk for a few days and just woke up. If he hadn't been AWOL he would have known from news accounts that Obama has not abandoned bipartisanship - he's just not going to be a "sap" when it comes to dealing with repubs. His column sounds about a week too late.

Posted by: PS on February 19, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Simple question: Does Broder ever lambaste Republicans for excessive partisanship?

Posted by: Gregory on February 19, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Republicans oppose the president's agenda. Given the GOP's role, they're supposed to oppose the president's agenda."


No, they're not. A lot of folks in the liberal blogosphere seem to need a refresher course in elementary civics. Here it is...

AMERICA DOES NOT HAVE A PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT.

GOP lawmakers have the exact same role and Democratic lawmakers. They're supposed to represent their constituents. The American system of government is not designed to be dominated by partisanship or ideology. When those factors become too influential in policy-making, THAT IS A BAD THING.

I realize many liberals' fondest wish is for America's government to be more like the European model. I don't think most have throught that through, such as considering that an American Parliament might be more similar to India's than any European country's, but that's beside the point. We don't have a parliamentary system and pushing what we do have to behave more like parliament is a sure path to disaster.

Mike

Posted by: MBunge on February 19, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

The other lesson from the stimulus act is that Republicans will never look at a bill and say "how nice that this was written to take our most serious concerns into account, let's support it".

Most of them will oppose any bill that doesn't doesn't read as if they wrote it. The few who will reluctantly come forward to support it, will demand their pound of flesh in the form of additional concessions.

Therefore, any proposals coming from the President or congressional Democrats should read like a wish list of their ideas. That way the compromise solution will have a chance of being something they can live with.

Posted by: tanstaafl on February 19, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Bipartisanship is a two way street. The people voted for a democratic agenda not republican. As of now the Republicans are somewhat deranged. They lost two elections and still keep doing the same thing, never stopping to think and ask why they lost. They are welcome to join the ride but not to decide where to.

The majority of the people don't want to follow a dope head like Rush or a befuddled Malkin or a don't know what to do Republican lemmings.

Posted by: Renee on February 19, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Exactly how have the Republicans been bipartisan ? it isn't solely up to the Democrats to be bipartisan. Where is the critcism for the Republicans lack of bipartisanship ?

Posted by: art P on February 19, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Who is this Broder guy and why can't he get with the program here? We're in the business of snubbing bipartisanship NOT encouraging it!

Posted by: John Boehner on February 19, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent comments! Since you're all so good at dredging up antique Broder canards, I'm surprised no one found an old Broder boilerplate into which he plugged the name of the President du jour. What a stifling, pompous bore!

The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

Posted by: Marie Burns on February 19, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"The goal has to be the value of the policy, not the nature of the process."

policy, schmolicy. for the beltway chattering class it's always ALL about process. thinking about the value of the policy would require, you know... thinking!

Posted by: mellowjohn on February 19, 2009 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Part of the problem is the term "bipartisan" itself. Our problems are extremely severe in many areas, and the best solutions will be non-partisan. For a large portion of our elected officials, however, raw partisanship is all they know, and are too lazy to learn or practice anything else.

Posted by: qwerty on February 19, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

"policy, schmolicy. for the beltway chattering class it's always ALL about process. thinking about the value of the policy would require, you know... thinking!"
mellowjohn at 11:49 AM

My thoughts exactly. It's been said before, but Broder comes across as an extremely dim bulb, and asleep at the wheel at that. But the Post seems to think he's relevant. I'm also thinking his demographic must be around the same median age as Bill O'Liarly's - 70 yrs. or so. Good post, Mr. Benen.

Posted by: Conrads Ghost on February 19, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Politicians can either grow their support or shrink it. Attention to bipartisanship is an effort to keep growing support. W was the most partisan president we have had in a long time and ended up with just some rump support from his own party. If Obama aims only for support from Democrats or "the left" he will have switched to a shrinking strategy.

Posted by: ebbolles on February 19, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

the Republican minority has no apparent interest in being a credible governing partner, and no intention to negotiate honestly.

On every issue, such as the recent stimulus, there are a few Republicans willing to negotiate honestly, and the goal of the "outreach" and "bipartisanship" is to get those few to vote with the President and the Democratic majority.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on February 19, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

MattewRMarler, you aren't qualified to evaluate anyone's honesty, lacking the quality yourself.

That said, can you remind us of those honest actors among the House Republicans, who voted en bloc against the stimulus despite Obama's concession? Thanks in advance.

Moreover, your analysis is stupidly flawed as usual: Obama isn't reaching out ro Republican lawmakers -- many of whom, hailing from "safe" -- i.e. reabidly Republican -- districts, have little incentive to compromise with obama and plenty not to -- but rather to moderately conservative voters, who continue to look at reflexively dishonest Repbulican dipshits like yourself and wash their hands in disgust of the Party. Thank you for your dontinued efforts at exposing the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the modern Republican Party.

Jackass.

Posted by: Gregory on February 19, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the deal...if you want to come to the party with some good ideas, then WELCOME! They will be considered. If you want to run to the mikes, cry FOUL before you even HEAR the problem then you're fired. Haven't any of these people EVER worked in their lives? Those of us 'Americans' they are always touting understand this. You don't always get what you want but at least you got a voice!

Posted by: Sysprog on February 19, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

That said, can you remind us of those honest actors among the House Republicans, who voted en bloc against the stimulus despite Obama's concession?

My point was that Obama needs a few Republican votes. The rest are irrelevant to his needs. I did not write that those Republicans who voted against Obama were honest. That's irrelevant to Obama's needs.

In the House he doesn't need any Republicans at all.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on February 19, 2009 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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