When the Republican House leadership surprised its members with their invitation to President Obama to speak at the Republican retreat in Baltimore, many conservatives were dismayed. As the event played out on January 29th, their concerns appeared justified.
The reason for the invitation is that Republican leaders have read the polls, and are worried about the “party of no” label which the polls prove is damaging them. Their intent was to get the president to admit that they had ideas worth considering. That led to the inevitable setup by White House political advisor David Axelrod who said in a Thursday interview that “It’s time to put up or shut up. We will put the other party to the test and they will have to explain why they are standing in the way.”
The president came to the Republican meeting weakened after a year of run amok liberalism, the most polarizing president ever. According to a new Rasmussen poll, only 21% of Americans believed his State of the Union claim that taxes have been cut for 95% of them. He, more than the Republicans, needed the meeting.
There was belligerence in Obama’s opening remarks. Still campaigning against “Washington” politics, Obama chastised Republicans for party-line votes on the stimulus package, reiterated his State of the Union agenda and insisted on his form of “bipartisanship.”
The televised event did accomplish the small Republican objective, but it was lost amidst the points Obama scored. Obama ducked and dodged a bit, admitting that Republicans had ideas worthy of consideration. But – seriatim – he derided the Republican legislative book he was handed as nothing more than talking points, demanding that they flesh them out into real proposals. Then he said he’d read the bills they presented. And then he said he’d already taken the good parts of their ideas and had incorporated them in his legislation, impliedly insisting they come up with something new.
The president — as one conservative member told me after the Friday session — is tough to compete with on the national stage. In this event, it was made doubly hard by the television coverage. Flipping between CNN and Fox, I couldn’t hear much of what Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said. Pence’s microphone wasn’t working. And when members asked the president questions — tough ones from Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) — the cameras never panned to show the congressmen. They showed the president and only the president.
Throughout, Obama pushed his bipartisanship scam. But he made it clear that it’s a roach motel he’s built for the Republicans willing to enter it: they’ll go in and never come out without adopting his ideas wholesale.
He chastised Republicans for their characterizations of the health care bill, accusing them of painting it as “a Bolshevik plot.” His smile wasn’t charming, it was combative and uncertain, like Nancy Pelosi explaining her faux ignorance of CIA waterboarding.
Obama is a statist, eager to impose government control over healthcare just as it now controls the two automakers and so much of the financial industry. It’s not Bolshevism the Republicans complain of: it’s Obama’s determination to expand government’s control over every aspect of our society.
Saying he’s not “an ideologue”, Obama defined bipartisanship in strict ideological terms. Most House Republicans (such as Mike Pence, Tom Price, Blackburn, Hensarling and others who spoke) have taken responsible conservative positions against Obama’s proposals.
For that, they earned Obama’s contempt. He said, “…we’ve got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality. I’m not suggesting that we’re going to agree on everything, whether it’s on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me.”
Obama added, “I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you’ve been telling your constituents is, this guy is doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.”
This is the central element of Obama’s bipartisanship scam. He demands that Republicans let him set the terms of the debate and adopt his theory of government in order to be “bipartisan.”
To accept his terms, Obama demands that Republicans agree with his misstatements of fact.
Case in point: Jeb Hensarling said, “You are soon to submit a new budget, Mr. President. Will that new budget, like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25 percent of our economy?”
In response, Obama accused Hensarling of asking a question formulated as a campaign talking point, and then said Hensarling lied: “So when you say that suddenly I’ve got a monthly budget that is higher than the — a monthly deficit that’s higher than the annual deficit left by the Republicans, that’s factually just not true, and you know it’s not true.”
But of course, Hensarling didn’t lie: Obama did.
According to a June 2009 report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office the federal deficit would rise from its 2008 level of $5.803 trillion to $17.126 trillion in 2019, which is 2.95 times larger than the 2008 level. (Even Obama’s Office of Management and Budget admits the deficit would be multiplied by a factor of 2.76.)
Obama’s bipartisanship scam is akin to the “legitimacy” scam that Kofi Annan ran when he was UN Secretary General. Annan insisted that international action — especially military action — couldn’t be legitimate unless the UN blessed it. Under Obama’s formulation, bipartisanship only exists when Republicans debate his ideas using his words and characterizations of the policies he prescribes. It’s Obama’s way of preparing the political battlefield so that only his statist ideas can be debated.
“This guy” — President Obama — is doing a lot of crazy stuff that endangers our economy, our national security and our future. If Republicans fall for Obama’s bipartisanship scam, they will have surrendered their ability to make big gains in November.
Cartoon by Brett Noel.