But there is no doubt that in the course of this debate, Mr. Obama has lost something — and lost it for good. Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago — the promise of a “postpartisan” Washington in which rationality and calm discourse replaced partisan bickering.In today's NYT, David Sanger argues that somehow, since "Never in modern memory has a major piece of legislation passed without a single Republican vote," this is a loss or failure on Obama's part. This despite the fact that Republicans were offered every opportunity to contribute to and shape the bill. They were determined not to; they had explicitly said at the beginning of Obama's term that would stop at nothing to obstruct or at least delay anything on his agenda. And, frankly and objectively, they have done a marvelous job of just that.
The problem isn't that Obama failed to achieve his "postpartisan" goal; his problem is that he thought Republicans shared that goal. They didn't and don't. The problem isn't that Obama isn't rational (I sometimes wish he was more emotional and passionate); the problem is he assumed rationality appealed to conservatives. It may have at some point in the past, but with a few exceptions (e.g. John Dean), I can't remember a time since 1992 when I have associated "rationality" with "conservatism." It takes two to tango. It takes two to make a marriage. And it takes two to sit down at the table and negotiate in good-faith bipartisanship.
This generation of Republicans won't even acknowledge that there is a table, let alone sit down at it. And negotiate with Dems? They'd rather blow Osama.
Even conservative pundit David Frum, in a widely-circulated column yesterday, recognizes this:
A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.(...)
At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.
This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.and:
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.(...)
There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?
When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.I for one welcome sensible conservatism. I welcome informed, rational viewpoints that differ from mine. But claiming that because Obama and Pelosi managed to shoehorn the HCR bill through, despite Republicans screaming "NO!", therefore fail, is just asinine.