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Obama stops begging for bipartisan compromise — finally

Obama stops begging for bipartisan compromise — finally
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
President Barack Obama reciting his inaugural address on the West front of the U.S Capitol on Monday.

Feeling a little embarrassed by my first take on the inaugural address, I'd like to, as they sometimes say on the floor of Congress, ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

In listening to the speech, I spent my energy imagining how unappealing and unpersuasive small-government conservatives and social conservatives and gun rights conservatives would find President Obama's list of big problems and issues government should try to tackle in the next four years. Well yes, conservatives will find that list unappealing and most will be disinclined to help Obama achieve the goals he outlined.

But his list of those problems was a good one, in some cases a brave one. If we ever get to full equality for gays and lesbians, the fact that Obama included that goal in his speech -- that he elevated "Stonewall" to a place of respectability and honor alongside "Seneca Falls and Selma" -- will be remembered as an important milestone.

The worst thing about the way I listened to the speech was captured by E.J. Dionne's column this morning, which said:

Some will no doubt think (and write) that Obama should have sought more lofty and non-partisan ground. The problem with this critique is that it asks Obama to speak as if the last four years had not happened.

Obama spent at least the first half of his first term begging for bipartisan compromise. He got some big things done but but little of it was produced by bipartisanship. He ran on that record and, even more explicitly, he ran against going back to the way things were done under the previous Republican president. His reelection campaign slogan was "Forward," with an almost audible epilogue of "not backward." He won a solid reelection victory, his party held onto control of the Senate and Republicans held onto the House. He doesn't have to worry about reelection and, given the current standing of the Republican Party, they are the ones who need to worry about their political future. Many, if not most, of the goals Obama listed Monday have majority support in the country. That is a big problem for Republicans.

Other than the gay equality stuff (on which he has evolved), Obama's list of goals and attitudes in yesterday's speech were his long-standing goals and attitudes. It's what he is for, and why shouldn't he say what he is for? If Republicans want to suggest compromises that will enable him to accomplish some of those goals in exchange for allowing them to accomplish some of theirs, I'm sure Obama will listen. If not, he will test the limits of executive branch authority and continue to make his case to the country.

In my first reaction yesterday, I quoted Charles Krauthammer's on-air reaction to the speech, which he called "an ode to big government." Today, I'm asking myself whether Obama could have given any vision for the next four years that would not have elicited that reaction from Krauthammer.

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Comments (11)


Finally, President Obama is no longer willing to grovel for agreement with republicans whose only answer seems to be NO.
He laid out a progressive agenda and it sounds as though he will do all he can to achieve it. He is finding ways to take executive action on some things; at least I hope he is. He can fix the debt ceiling limit in a couple of different ways and I hope he uses that rather than give in to the republicans' "deal" to cut what they call entitlements -- I call earned benefits.
I hope this is finally the president I voted for in 2008.

Republicans, themselves, have made a mockery of bi-partisanship

To me the most telling quote in any of the coverage I have seen was from Sen. John McCain who complained that Obama didn't mention working across the aisle.

To what end?

Republicans - at least from their action, or inaction, of the last two years - don't have even the slightest clue on how to work in bi-partisan manner. They even publicly stated that their number one goal for the last four years was to deny Obama a second term. What the hell kind of civic goal is that?

I mean how many times does Lucy have to pull the football out from Charlie Brown at the last?

As it is, despite having a majority in the House, every single thing the House leadership has brought up in the last six months just generates a huge public outcry of inaction and obstructionism and they just look worse and worse. Eventually, even some of the southern Tea Party folks are going to find running on a record of proud obstructionism won't keep getting them elected.

I hope that

means we can say "goodbye" to the likes of Simpson and Bowles and Pete Peterson and the rest of the bipartisan fiscal scolds with their big plans for starvation of Social Security and Medicare.

Exactly!!He was elected by a


He was elected by a clear majority of voters mainly because he was not Republican. So why should he act and speak like a Republican now?

One can only imagine the tenor or a triumphant Republican president, if that alternative universe had become a reality.

From a purely political strategy outlook, another 2 or four years of intensifying crazy from the Republicans does no harm to prospects of the Democratic party.

Besides, there really are issues that would be totally buried in a Republican administration (climate change, Mr. Imhofe?).

I snorted when I saw that

I snorted when I saw that McCain and probably others said they wished to see more of a conciliatory, let's-compromise tone from the president. They've fought him tooth and nail, even on things they actually agreed on before the positions were associated with him. As you say, "Obama spent at least the first half of his first term begging for bipartisan compromise." Given their overwhelming rejection of those earlier efforts at bipartisanship, how can they possibly expect them to continue?

The ode to small government...

Has been one of the most mismanaged wars in US history, greatest recession since the Great Depression, and most useless congress in history. It's about time someone sings an ode to big government, and we should have no shame or embarrassment in doing so.

GOP shoot themselves in the foot

The GOP has frequently refused to engage with the Dems in order to reach compromise. The GOP willingness to send the nation into default--even delight at the prospect!--is the clearest example.

This refusal to compromise *weakens* GOP power by abdicating their active role in negotiation. The less they engage, the more Boehner is forced to turn to right-leaning and moderate Dems for votes. Each time he does, the legislation must be amended to meet Dem requirements, and Boehner and the Republicans hand more power to the Dems. When you take your toys and go home, you are no longer in the game.

Just shooting themselves in the foot--with the country and the economy wounded by friendly fire.

That's all well and good, but...

Paul: I think the majorty of people agree with you. They want a big government and the President will gladly give it to them. I am concerned how we pay for this expansion of government. Or is this concern about debt overblown?


The concern for debt is indeed overblown. It's simply being used as a cudgel to beat Obama over the head, even though any president would have to do exactly what Obama did, regardless of whether they were red or blue.

The key to the whole debt debate is spending. In order to get people back to work, someone has to first buy something to create demand for their product or service. Businesses aren't buying--in fact they were laying people off at record rates. And consumers weren't buying because they were afraid of being laid off, assuming they weren't already. And consumers are 70% of the market.

So what does that leave? Government. So government started buying as a means to prop up the economy. Hence, we got record debts.

The time to tackle debt is when the economy is humming along and people and businesses can afford the extra taxes it takes to get the job done. And/or the reduced government spending, which will have a cooling effect on the economy. The WRONG time to do this is when the economy is still in recovery mode, which is where we're currently at. Cut spending too soon and too deeply and you just send the economy back into another recession.

So yes, the concern about debt is indeed overblown. We'll get there and tackle it, but all in due time.

We pay taxes.

TJ, for all the whining about our crushing tax burden the fact is we're paying the lowest tax rates in decades. Tax rates for the wealthy in the 1950s were as high as 94%. We paid off our war debt and grew the economy at the same time. You can't have a government without paying for it, all you get is huge debts when you try. Every Republican president since Reagan has proven that.

Bamboozling Obama

Despite all odds, our President prevailed in gaining re-election. He still has an uphill battle fighting a Red Congress which has blocked his every move in an attempt to squash his goals of bringing the Middle Class equal pay, women’s rights, gay rights and affordable healthcare. The Bush Administration drove our economy into a swift nose dive and Obama is still the patsy. Watch conservative hands paint him in Blackface with a visual commentary of how Barack has been bamboozled at