Forget bipartisanship, Obama

But the pursuit of Snowe is pretty close to obsessive, which is not a good thing either for Democrats or for the prospects of health-care reform worthy of the name. First, Snowe’s exaggerated prominence is both the result and symbol of Obama’s quixotic and ultimately time–wasting pursuit of “bipartisanship.” In case the White House hasn’t noticed, Republicans in Congress are engaged in what amounts to a sitdown strike. They don’t like anything about Obama or his policies; they have no interest in seeing him succeed. Despite the occasional protestation to the contrary, the GOP has no intention of helping him pass any legislation. Snowe may very well end up voting for whatever she and Democrats craft, but that won’t make the outcome bipartisan any more than dancing shoes made Tom DeLay Fred Astaire.

Nor would Snowe’s vote mollify the GOP grassroots: they don’t think of her as a Republican anyway. The notion that she is inspiring other Republicans to join the cause of reform falls apart when you see who is falling in line. A few prominent Republicans indeed said nice things about the Senate Finance Committee bill—the one on which Snowe was the only Republican vote. But that praise, from former GOP Senate lead-ers Bob Dole and Howard Baker and former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, loses its impact once you realize that all three of them work for major Washington law firms, whose clients include most of the big corporate players in the health-care industry. Theirs is rented bipartisanship, on retainer or billed by the hour.