The only thing surprising about this analysis of Barack Obama’s call for bipartisanship is that it comes from CBS — although the reporter, Mark Knoller, has quietly become a good read in the White House press corps. Knoller gives a biting report on Obama’s actual intentions and the desperation leading to it, but it won’t really come as shocking news to anyone in the GOP. The Democratic definition of bipartisanship has been the same since Bill Clinton demanded it for his own government takeover of health care:
It was more a plaintive plea than a political observation. His top legislative priorities are going nowhere and he’s searching for a way to get them out of lockup.
In this 13th month of his presidency, he’s anxious to pass a jobs bill and be seen addressing an unemployment rate that only last week declined from double digits. And his efforts to enact bills on energy, financial regulatory reform and especially health care are stuck in Congress despite the solid majority his party holds in both chambers.
He’s appealing for a spirit of bipartisanship – urging Democrats and Republicans alike “to put aside matters of party for the good of the country.” …
Mr. Obama said he “won’t hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party.” But he wants his way. He wants his energy policy enacted along with his jobs bill, his financial regulatory reform and his health care plan.
And if the opposition continues to block his objectives, he said he “won’t hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that’s rooted not in substantive disagreement but in political expedience.”
When a sitting president calls for bipartisanship by the opposition – he really means surrender. And if they block his proposals, its “obstinacy” and not political views they hold as strongly as he holds his.
At one point in his analysis, Knoller mentions that the first President Bush made the same kind of call in 1990, but Knoller forgets to mention that Bush actually followed through on his claim to bipartisanship to enact a tax hike Democrats demanded. Bush had promised during the 1988 presidential campaign that he would follow in Ronald Reagan’s footsteps and not increase taxes (although Reagan did sign a tax hike), using the phrase “Read my lips — no new taxes!” What was Bush’s reward for that bipartisanship? Democrats used that clip in commercial after commercial in 1992 to call Bush a liar, even though they had demanded it from him.
For Democrats, the definition of bipartisanship has always been Republican surrender. That was true in 1990, and it was true in 1992, and it’s still true today. The surprise here isn’t the intent of Obama to use bipartisanship to bulldozer GOP opposition to his agenda, but that the media finally reports it as such — and perhaps especially at CBS.