All presidents try to have it both ways. But Obama has more reason than most to rein in his partisanship: The post-partisan bridge-builder pitch was a part of his appeal as a candidate. At the same time, it would be a mistake to think that, just because he wasn’t making frontal attacks, Obama wasn’t trying to take partisan advantage. Striving for bipartisanship, as the president appeared to do during much of the health care debate and at the daylong White House health care summit, creates the precondition for going it alone. We did everything we could, he can say. But in the end Republicans were just too obstructionist.
This strategy requires being able to move back and forth between both worlds. That’s probably impossible now that health care has passed. Selling health care necessarily engages the president in a partisan contest for the rest of this year. Republicans have said they’ll run on the coming Armageddon for the next seven months. If that’s the case, then it appears that Obama will have no problem making fun of them for it.