Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 8, 2010

COMPROMISE EFFORTS WON'T BE NEW.... NBC's First Read, noting President Obama's interview on "60 Minutes," said "the most striking" part of the interview was the president's "admission that that he and his administration didn't compromise and work with the Republicans."

Now, I watched the entire 70-minute, unedited interview from start to finish, and at no point did Obama say anything like this. In fact, the observation is backwards -- the president said the opposite, and at one point, Steve Kroft did, too.

OBAMA: What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna reach out to Republicans and I'm gonna say, "What can we work on together?" There are gonna be some things that we can't agree on. You know? Philosophically. And so, we will have those battles. And we'll save those decisions till after the next election. But in the meantime, there must be some things we can agree on.

KROFT: Haven't you tried that?

OBAMA: Well I have, but I'm gonna keep on trying.... And what I'm gonna constantly be looking for are areas that draw from the Democratic ideas, Republican ideas to find that commonsense center, where we can move the country forward. Even though we'll still have some, you know, big disagreements and big debates on other issues.

At a separate point in the interview, the president lamented the fact that he and his team, particularly on health care, "couldn't get the kind of cooperation from Republicans that I had hoped for. We thought that if we shaped a bill that wasn't that different from bills that had previously been introduced by Republicans -- including a Republican governor in Massachusetts who's now running for President -- that, you know, we would be able to find some common ground there. And we just couldn't."

That's not an "admission" that the White House "didn't compromise and work with the Republicans"; it's a reflection on the opposite point.

The president, by all appearances, intends to keep trying to reach out to Republicans, even though they apparently prioritize destroying his presidency, and even though previous efforts at outreach haven't been well received. Last night's interview wasn't ambiguous on this point.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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"Cast not your pearls before swine, for they will trample them.."

Posted by: MR Bill on November 8, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is insane. Or do we now use a different word for someone who does the same thing over and over and expects a different result?

Posted by: square1 on November 8, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Our Liberal Media strike again. The thing nobody seems to realize (or will not state unambiguously) is that the Republican notion of compromise is "do everything we want". To the modern GOP, compromise equals weakness. The Democrats need to *govern* and get over this codependent desire to get along with the Republicans. This Will Not Happen because the GOP are not interested.

Posted by: millsapian87 on November 8, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

We thought that if we shaped a bill that wasn't that different from bills that had previously been introduced by Republicans -- including a Republican governor in Massachusetts who's now running for President -- that, you know, we would be able to find some common ground there. And we just couldn't."

In retrospect, I wonder if this was a big mistake by Obama. By preemptively incorporating the Republican ideas, it left the "there's no damn way we're going to co-operate" Republicans with no alternative but to abandon their previously held ideas and opt for wild accusations and general craziness. If Obama had promoted something much more radical the Republicans might have stuck with their previously held policies and then Obama could have conceded defeat and accepted a "Republican" bill looking very much like what was enacted.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on November 8, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Obama really is--despite all the book learnin'--a complete idiot. I'm kinda shocked.

"We thought that if we shaped a bill that wasn't that different from bills that had previously been introduced by Republican ... we would be able to find some common ground there."

Are you fucking kidding me? Really? Where the fuck has he -been-?

He's not playing 11-dimensional chess. He's playing chess without his rooks, knights, or bishops. Idiot.

Posted by: gussie on November 8, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Expecting accurate reporting and catching when it is not accurate certainly provides fuel for the blogosphere, but we're really long past realistically expecting accurate reporting.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 8, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

NBC is just once again demonstrating the active help that the mainsteam corporate media has been providing to the GOP in the last year or so.

It became obvious during the health care fight, and it became blatant during the latest election. Now it is going into overdrive. Things like this (or the soft-pedaling of the stuff that came out during the Bush interviews) show that they aren't even pretending to be objective any longer. They are not reporting - they are actively spinning for an agenda.

People lambaste Obama for not being more effective at getting his message through. Fair enough. But this is at a time when large media outlets like NBC are not reporting major presidential speeches (except maybe in excerpts and soundbites). And then when Obama actually gets on TV, they make a point of immediately slamming the opposition's talking points down on him.

The bully pulpit doesn't amount to much if the media gatekeepers are talking over you, or are locking out the public.

Posted by: Bokonon on November 8, 2010 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, what an idiot Obama is. Imagine, trying to create a cooperative post-partisan atmosphere to unify the country and get a constructive agenda enacted. What a jerk.

Posted by: beejeez on November 8, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think Obama's biggest, catastrophic mistake was his continuing efforts to find compromise with repubs. It's not that I'm opposed to compromise. It's that the repubs made it pretty clear, pretty early that they just weren't interested. He's got a large megaphone. He should have used it to call out and belittle republican 'leadership' every day of the week.

Posted by: JoeW on November 8, 2010 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kind of hypocritical and disingenuous coming from NBC - the same company that just suspended Olbermann for his small, personal political contributions.

While calling out NBC, maybe we should also thank CBS for broadcasting the interview, and making it available in full on the web. Remember, it was CBS and Couric who gave Sarah Palin a black eye by airing an interview that exposed Palin's glaring shortcomings. And Letterman was pretty tough on Bush.

Posted by: delNorte on November 8, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

millsapian87 is right, but doesn't go far enough. The Republican idea of compromsie is: do everything we say we want, and then wait for us to revise our demands in an ever more extreme direction so that we can start all over again.

Posted by: J on November 8, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

The beltway press decided back in August (in not sooner) that one of the key themes of this election was the lack of 'bipartisaship' in Washington. Which we all know means Obama did not do enough of what Republicans demanded.

And sense it is easier to come up with a meme and stick too it than actually do any work or real reporting every single story out of the Beltway we be filtered through that lense. Obama could list off every single compromise he made to congressional Republicans on health care and the headline would still read:

Obama Admits He Did Not Compromise With Congressional Republicans.

That's just the way things work.

Especially in the era of Obama. As I've noted in the past, the stronger an Obama speech, the less the press covers it and/or the more they disort its message and/or talk about something else. Obama gave one of the strongest defenses of healthcare reform during the State of the Union address and the beltway media (including here) spent three weeks talking about whether Joe Wilson was a meanie for the 'you lie' comment. Almost nothing about the actual substance of the speech.

It was pathetic. Instead of a potential teaching moment a defining speech on healthcare reform we got a bunch whining twelve year olds.

Is it any wonder out nation is falling apart?

Posted by: thorin-1 on November 8, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

There are only good reasons for a politician to open his (or her) mouth. Either to tell the truth. Or to make a statement that is politically useful.

Obama keeps saying that he is going to try, in good faith, to work with an opposition that has proven that they will never work in good faith.

If he is sincere when he says that, then he is the most clueless person on the planet.

If he is not sincere, but believes that it is politically useful to play the part of a bipartisan compromiser, then he is horrendously misreading the political tea leaves.

Most Republicans will never give him credit for compromising. And Most Democrats don't want him to compromise. We just had an election that confirmed this fact.

Posted by: square1 on November 8, 2010 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah Obama is a big fat f'ing idiot for trying to compromise by patterning Mass. policy...WAKE UP HAND WRINGERS!!! We have a HEALTH CARE BILL that Congress has been trying to pass for DECADES and no one was able to DO it. AND NOW the GOP has turned on their 'jobs jobs jobs' chant and the #1 priority is to dismantle the AFC. I WONDER why that is. STOP IT!!!

Posted by: SYSPROG on November 8, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

"...The bully pulpit doesn't amount to much if the media gatekeepers are talking over you, or are locking out the public..."
Posted by: Bokonon

Well, then devise guerilla alternatives. For instance, I've received literally *hundreds* of pass around political emails from my wingnut relatives, printed in 24 point bright red font, pumped out from all kinds of right wing propaganda factories, but I've received literally maybe half a dozen progressive pass arounds in comparison. Why isn't there a similar 'underground' onslaught from progressives?
Obama is feeding the alligators who will in turn finish devouring him.

Posted by: Varecia on November 8, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is Charlie Brown and the Republican Party is Lucy. Ernest Hollings used to say "there's no education in the second kick of mule". Obama is yet another proof of that adage. It's one thing to hope that Republicans might put country before party at the outset of a new administration. It's something else entirely to look at the wreckage of the Democratic Party in Congress and promise to try yet again. Stop trying. It's destroying this country.

Posted by: walt on November 8, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

SYSPROG, the problem isn't in the Democrats accomplishments, which have been notable considering the obstructionism, but in their utter failure to frame and control from the start. I don't see how anyone can NOT "hand wring" after last week.

Posted by: Varecia on November 8, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Same interview, Obama also admitted that he took a Republican health care plan so that they would be agreeable to passing it.

Now he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts, all or partially. The current defense secretary is Republican. So is the Treasury secretary and Fed chairman.

Between health care, taxation policy, social security, defense and the Fed, there's not much else that the gov't does. All controlled by Republicans or their ideas. Brought to you by Obama.

At some point you folks have to face facts: the national Republicans are smarter than your guys.

They've so completely co-opted the national agenda that they've gotten your Democrats to offer Republican legislation and ideas for free.

At least Steve can now stop pretending that his precious "ACA" is somehow progressive. The POTUS says otherwise.

Posted by: Observer on November 8, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Compromise efforts won't be new but they sure as hell are getting old. How much weaker can Obama appear? Apparently a lot.

It appears as though Obama and Democrats have taken exactly the wrong lesson from this last election. Instead of doubling down being *more* liberal, they are going to double down on capitulating more and moving more to the center (aka be more business friendly) in a futile attempt to get more corporate cash, which after 2010 and the Citizen's United case will go overwhelmingly to Republican's regardless of how much further to the right the Democrats will move.

Posted by: Vince on November 8, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

If only Lincoln had compromised with the Confederacy . . .

If only FDR had compromised with Hitler . . .

If only LBJ had compromised with the segregationists . . .

Thank goodness President Obama is no Lincoln, FDR or Lyndon Johnson.

Posted by: Omahaha on November 8, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

It seems that Obama was trying some passive-aggressive arguments to make his points (i.e., I'm still trying to compromise, it's republicans who are the problem). Unfortunately, neither the MSM nor the republicans are receptive to that approach.

Something along the lines of a rhetorical 2x4 across the head is the only thing that works with these people.

Until the Dems start staking out ground in blunt terms that paint a stark contrast to the opposition, Amurkans aren't going to see it. At some point, we're going to have to frame issues on our terms and stop using theirs.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 8, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

To all of you who feel the president is out of sorts on this (I replaced something else , with "you")out there,... he got a health care bill passed, of course, just after the election he is going to offer compromise. ..he obviously is aware of the lack of compromise, and the intransigence , he will not go exact same route. But you must offer . . .you must talk, it is just that knowing the results will afford a different outcome this time.

Posted by: Michael on November 8, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Christ. It's bad enough having to deal with idiotic manichean Republican revisionist history without having to deal with idiotic manichean "progressive" revisionist history.

Lincoln didn't compromise with the Confederacy. He did compromise with northern Democrats on a number of issues. Particularly after he got his ass handed to him in the 1862 midterms.

FDR didn't compromise with Hitler. He did, on occaision, compromise with Republicans. He even frequently committed the mortal sin of "adopting Republican talking points" on numerous occaisions. Like, say, when he spent most of 1940 adopting the isolationist Republican talking points and insisting that no American boys would be sent to foreign countries to fight in foreign wars.

LBJ got Medicare and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 by making deals with Republicans. But if he didn't ever compromise with segregationists, you need to go look up the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

FDR, Lincoln and LBJ all dealt with endless, vociferous criticism from the left wings of their parties they were tepid, mamby-pamby compromisers with evil throughout their presidencies. The stuff that the abolitionists said about Lincoln and the left of the Democratic party said about FDR has a particularly familiar ring to it.

It's easy to invent fake history to support an argument that today's leaders are weak and vacillating and ineffectual by comparison. It's an old game. People been doing it since forever and its been a particularly popular pasttime among Amerians. But the truth is that leaders in a democracy have to deal with the mood of the country as it is and, in real time, rapid progress has a tendency to look like glacial incrementalism to the leaders' critics.

Lincoln, FDR and Johnson all understood, first and foremost, that the one fatal mistake a politician can make is to get too far ahead of public opinion. All three of them knew you couldn't lead people anywhere if you ran so far out ahead that you left them behind.

Posted by: Another Steve on November 8, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

There seems to be a factual disagreement about whether or not the Democrats reached out to the Republicans. The Republicans all say that any gestures at bipartisanship were just window-dressing, and that they had no real opportunity to participate. They say it repeatedly and in every medium. Is it a lie? If so, shouldn't reporters and Democrats be saying so?

Posted by: keith on November 8, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps NBC needs a second read.

Posted by: doubtful on November 8, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

The whole essence of our two house legislative branch is compromise. The majority of the public trusts Obama to compromise and that is a big plus. The problems are a)that Obama discards the strongest cards before negotiations begin and b) he doesn't effectively spotlight the extreme positions the Republicans take. When they lie (death panels)he needs to be seen swinging a sledgehammer right down between the eyes on the nightly news.

Posted by: Seould on November 8, 2010 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Another Steve.

Posted by: Doug on November 8, 2010 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

This time around, he needs to come out unreasonable and move to reasonable, instead of starting from a reasonable position.

Posted by: Rachel on November 10, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK
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