Obama’s Wasted Efforts At Bipartisanship

In the early days of his young presidency, President Obama has already accomplished a great deal, making a clean break from Bush on a variety of issues, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And in a few short days, he’ll be putting his name to an economic recovery bill that will largely hew to the principles he laid out months ago.

In the midst of these accomplishments, there have been some wasted efforts. And most of those wasted efforts have come from a sincere — but unwise — attempt to ingratiate himself with uncompromising conservatives. Some examples:

— What Obama did: Trusted Judd Gregg when he indicated that, “despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace and move forward with the president’s agenda.”

— What Obama got in return: A “change of heart” from Gregg, who said that he “couldn’t be Judd Gregg” at Commerce.


— What Obama did: Reached out to have dinner with right-wing pundits Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and David Brooks.

— What Obama got in return: A ripping from his right-wing friends, who called it the worst in “galactic history.”

— What Obama did: Tried to work with the House GOP by preemptively including tax cuts, stripping stimulative spending proposals, and attending their conference meeting.

— What Obama got in return: Zero votes (and a bunch of false myths about his plan)

— What Obama did: Tried to reach out to John McCain to work together on “solving our financial crisis.”

— What Obama got in return: Nothing. McCain voted against the legislation, and even went so far as to call it “generational theft” and hypocritically complained that it contained “corporate giveaways.”

Fortunately, the White House seems to recognize the errors of its ways. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel conceded, “White House officials allowed an insatiable desire in Washington for bipartisanship to cloud the economic message a point coming clear in a study being conducted on what went wrong and what went right with the package.”


The House voted 246–183 to pass the economic recovery plan, again with zero Republican votes.