Americans On Bipartisanship: Meh

Via Sargent, we find some interesting internals from the New York Timespoll released today:

  • Which do you think should be a higher priority for  Barack Obama right now -- working in a bipartisan way with Republicans in Congress or sticking to the policies he promised he would during the campaign:

    Working bipartisan way: 39%

    Sticking to policies: 56%

  • Which do you think should be a higher priority for Republicans in Congress right now -- working in a bipartisan way with Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress or sticking to Republican policies?

    Working bipartisan way: 79%

    Sticking to policies: 17%

Americans don't support Obama for no reason - they support his agenda and leadership. And it's pretty clear that they want Republicans to drop the nose-spite-face schtick and get to work.

But GOP chair Michael Steele didn't get the memo - he's already hinting at political punishment for the three Republicans who voted for the stimulus. And guess who's giving the Republican response to Obama's Congressional address tonight...Gov. Bobby Jindal, a.k.a. the man rejecting stimulus money for Louisiana.

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Blue dogs

The era of bipartisanship is underway.  The senators from Maine and Pennsylvania are holdovers from the old approach to involving rebublican viewpoints in the definition of legislative outcomes. The new way of working together is rapidly evolving inside the Democratic Party.  The republican moderates in both houses are being knocked off in their own primaries and then losing the general elections to those new members who are forming the "Blue Dog " caucus.  These are the folks who represent the constituencies that sent moderate republicans to Congress and their concerns and values have not changed much.  They have no more use for the inflexible and often radical right wing republicans than do the rest of us.  There was some indication toward the end of the stimulus debate that the White House is aware that these "Blue Dogs" represent the concerns that need to be made a part of the governing process.  The radical and inflexible right does not bring much of use or interest to the national debate and the urgency for reasonable responses that are required.  The key to strong support from the left and right center engaged creatively with the rest of the Democratic majority can lead to the kind of progressive and inclusive governance President Obama is able to lead.    

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Lesson Learned?

The Wall St. Journal reports on an interview with Rahm Emanuel in which he concedes that striving for bipartisanship derailed the administration's stimulus message.

Mr. Emanuel owned up to one mistake: message. What he called the outside game slipped away from the White House last week, when the president and others stressed bipartisanship rather than job creation as they moved toward passing the measure. 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, he said.

But, he said, Washington should have learned something about Mr. Obama as well, with the shift from bipartisan overtures to outright mockery of his opposition.

He has an open hand, Mr. Emanuel said. But he has a very firm handshake.

Of course, in the same interview, Emanuel insisted that the president would continue to reach out to Republicans. "That will not change," he said.

OK, well what I hope does change is the prioritizing of this cute little hobby of his. Bipartisanship for its own sake, which, let's face it, is what the president has been engaging in (lacking any cooperation from the other side) should not trump making good policy. Yes, Republican input is welcome and their votes would be lovely, even beyond the very few that are necessary for passage, but not at the cost of the agenda that was ratified by the American people in the landslide last November.

But just in case the administration needs a reminder, Think Progress documents the bipartisan outreach by Obama and what he got in return:

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.”

On Countdown just now, Eugene Robinson expressed his expectation that the message Rahm Emanuel is sending here is, as Keith put it:

"Burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice...that's not going to happen."

Let's hope so.

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Spare us the bipartisanship 2

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

President Obama's first strategy for his stimulus package was to try to guilt trip Congress into approving it because the dire state of the economy demands that we show bipartisan support.

His message to Congress essentially said, "the moment is urgent, we need action now, so do not worry over whether you agree or disagree with certain provisions, go along with it because of the need to be bipartisan." These were the same arguments that got us the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, and the Vietnam war.

To their credit, the Republicans would not be guilt-tripped. They wanted to fight for their ideas, however wrong they may be.   More tax cuts, less school modernization, more tax cuts, less aid to state government to provide services for people.

President Obama's team has been slow and fuzzy in response, but in Indiana today he is starting to move beyond merely criticizing the stimulus opponents for ignoring the need to act quickly and to be bipartisan.  He is beginning to engage in a debate on his ideas:

...I put forth a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that is now before Congress. At its core is a very simple idea: to put Americans back to work doing the work America needs done.

The plan will save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years. But not just any jobs - jobs that meet the needs we've neglected for far too long and lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth: jobs fixing our schools; computerizing medical records to save costs and save lives; repairing our infrastructure; and investing in renewable energy to help us move toward energy independence.

He needs to take it farther.  Instead of accepting more tax cuts in return for  more Republican votes, he needs to tell the country why building new schools is a better thing to do than to give upper middle class people more tax incentives to buy a home.

Ronald Reagan did not win his legislative battles by asking Congress to stop playing politics and be bipartisan.  He won many Democrats to his side by appealing to values of responsibility and individuality and then rolling over those who opposed him by labeling them as politicians who had been addicted to "deficit spending" all their lives.    He omitted the part about how his tax cuts were about to increase the size of the federal deficit far beyond what it was under his predecessor, Jimmy Carter.

Obama needs to define the current debate by contrasting his vision for the country and his policies with those of his opponents.  Part of the problem may be that he felt he did not have opponents.  Now he knows better.

John Russonello is a partner with Belden Russonello & Stewart:Public Opinion Research and Strategic Communications in Washington, DC. He writes the blog "Think it Through."

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Is This the "Stimulus Bill" or "Bipartisan Bill"?

(Proudly cross-posted at C4O Democrats)

Really. President Obama needs to make a choice, and we need to push him to make the right choice. I've had enough of the "bipartisan" BS and the corporate media idiots chattering on about how success will be mesaured by whether or not John McCain likes the bill. Shouldn't we mesaure success on how many people are saved from financial catastrophe?

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