I guess this criticism is never going to go away, but after dwelling for a while on other issues Robert Pear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg eventually trot out this time-honored trope — Obama needs to be nicer to Republicans:
Yet White House officials have shown little interest in Republicans, with the exception of Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, whom they have wooed assiduously, and one or two others. Mr. Obama did meet with some Republicans early on, when his aides still believed it was possible to get the support of Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee.
The No. 3 Republican in the Senate, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who attended one session with the president, recalled that in the 1960s, when he was a Congressional aide, Democrats and Republicans worked together on civil rights. He said he saw no possibility of a bipartisan health bill.
“White House officials don’t want one or don’t know how to do one,” Mr. Alexander said.
This is very confused, starting with the fact that Alexander started working as a Senate aide in 1967 by which time the main civil rights debate was over. Then any competent observer of American politics should realize that it’s no coincidence that the bipartisanship of the civil rights era vanished in the post-civil rights age. It was the debate over civil rights itself that created the unusual bipartisanship of mid-20th century America.
Last there’s the small matter here of the actual history of the health reform debate. Chuck Grassley is not just some guy, he’s the top Republican on health care issues. And the Grassley courtship process took a long time. And Grassley abandoned it in a blaze of hypocrisy, eventually slamming Democrats for embracing an individual mandate to purchase health insurance that he had long supported.
The larger context is that the president laid out some goals for health reform. He wants a bill that expands coverage in a way that’s deficit neutral in the medium-term, doesn’t disrupt people’s existing health insurance in the short-term, and bends the long-term cost curve. A lot of different ideas were put forward in Congress about how to do this. None of them were put forward by Republicans. One of them, produced by the Senate Finance Committee, was embraced by one Republican, Olympia Snowe. But the others are opposed to all the different proposed ways of achieving these goals and don’t have an alternative approach to offer either. Which is fine. Political parties can have profound disagreements about objectives. But it is what it is. Acting as if inviting Lamar Alexander over for tea would have fundamentally altered the landscape is silly.