Barack Obama made a lot of noise about post-partisanship during the presidential campaign, but few of us thought it meant more than just campaign noise and centrist credibility-building. However, last night’s confab at George Will’s house with David Brooks and Bill Kristol just before Obama’s inauguration might indicate that, as George Bush attempted, Obama might try to calm the tone in Washington:
This could ruin their reputation: President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday evening attending a dinner party at the home of conservative columnist George Will, attended by fellow conservatives William Kristol and David Brooks.
The press pool following the president-elect reported that he left his temporary home at Washington’s Hay-Adams hotel Tuesday evening and arrived a short time later at Will’s home in the Maryland suburbs. A press pool photographer shot a photo of Kristol, an editor of the Weekly Standard, and Brooks, a columnist at the New York Times.
I like David Brooks, and he’s about as conservative as anyone with a regular column in the New York Times could be, but I’d classify him as center-right at best. George Will and Bill Kristol are certainly conservative, but Will doesn’t dig into the partisan warfare, preferring to remain on policy more than politics. Kristol, though, is a man for the trenches, a stalwart on both policy and politics.
Kristol’s presence impresses me the most. Had Obama just wanted a conservative “beard”, he could have stuck with Brooks and invited Doug Kmiec. The entire meeting is somewhat of a surprise, but Kristol’s presence indicates that Obama wanted it to be taken seriously.
Will it change Obama’s direction? Of course not. Obama will do what Obama wants to do. I’d guess that he’s hoping at best to take some of the nastiness out of the punditry to come over the next few months. It’s not as easy to rip your friends as it is your opponents, and Obama wants a base of goodwill for his first 100 days to give him some breathing space. It makes some sense, but knowing Kristol as I do (slightly personally, but I’ve read him for years), I don’t think it will work if Obama runs to the left on economics and foreign policy — nor should it.
Allahpundit asked a good question last night in his post on the subject: Whither the blogosphere in a post-partisan age? Post-partisan puts too much into it. The partisan divide will continue to exist because people have vastly different ideas about the role of government in a free society — and a free society should welcome that debate. Taking the nastiness out of the policy debate will only improve the process, as it will clarify the actual policy choices and the people who support what, without the distorting factor of party affiliation getting in the way — which to some extent it has with the bailouts and on immigration, to name two examples.
The blogosphere will fare quite nicely under those conditions, assuming they ever exist. One dinner does not Xanadu make, after all, and not all of the arrows have come from conservatives — which I suspect Obama will discover when some of his putative allies on the Left begin commenting on this meeting.