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Obama Jettisons Bipartisanship   January 23rd, 2009
January 23, 2009: The Day Obama Jettisoned Bipartisanship       


More observations...

I hope this isn't the first of many comments directly adressing daily partisan politics of the Obama administration. I really want the content on this website to be about more substantive issues of ideology, economics, and logic rather than the daily bickering between the parties. But if President Obama is going to take shots at a conservative radio talk show host and issue ultimatums to Republican leaders in Congress, I don't think I'm out of line to stoop to the same level just this once.

I was absolutely disgusted and dismayed by what essentially amounts to President Obama's ultimatum to conservatives today: "Abandon your ideology if you want to get along with me and the Democrats."

Specifically, the following was reported:

President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration.

"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.

One White House official confirmed the comment but said he was simply trying to make a larger point about bipartisan efforts.

I understand that many people have a negative image of Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh makes it easy to hate him--in fact, he often intentionally ruffles liberals' feathers. Limbaugh also makes it easy to take him out of context.

And, just as Obama took McCain's "$5 million is middle class" made-in-jest comment out of context during the campaign, in a Spanish language political ad Obama also intentionally took old Rush Limbaugh comments completely out of context and falsely implied that McCain embraced Limbaugh's positions on immigration. In fact, McCain and Limbaugh were pretty much 100% opposed to each other on that issue.

Conservatives don't have a compelling voice amongst our elected officials right now. Our presidential candidate last year wasn't particularly conservative and it seems like there's an ongoing battle to move the Republican party away from conservative ideals. We don't have a charismatic leader articulating our beliefs like President Reagan in the 80's. While Rush Limbaugh is just an intentionally abrasive radio talk show host that says everything in the most extreme and over-the-top manner possible in his understandable quest for ratings, for better or for worse he seems to be the only public figure with a loud voice espousing conservative ideology. Apparently a loud enough voice to get the attention of the president.

But the issue goes far beyond the president attacking a talk show host. It's the underlying message President Obama conveyed. Obama wasn't "simply trying to make a larger point about bipartisan efforts." An ultimatum like the one Obama issued has absolutely nothing to do with bipartisanship. In fact, it's the exact opposite. It was antagonistic, condescending, and insulting. And those are three things that are going to make it harder to find matters on which we can achieve bipartisan agreement.

Bipartisanship is finding common ground where we can. But we're not going to agree on everything--that's why we belong to different political parties. To expect either side to abandon their principles in the name of bipartisanship is simply not reasonable. Nor would it be healthy for the country.

During the last administration, Democrats didn't just go along with the Bush administration on everything. They did precisely the opposite. It was their job to challenge the party in power. And they often said so.

Now the tables are turned. Democrats are in complete control of the executive and legislative branches and Republicans are in the minority. And now it's the Republicans' job to be the faithful opposition. Just as Democrats didn't give up their principles in the name of "bipartisanship" during the Bush administration, it's insulting to have the president tell the opposition that that's what they should do.

While Obama's pleads and promises for bipartisanship always rang rather hollow throughout the campaign and transition, I became quite suspicious during the inauguration speech itself. There was a striking lack of effort to strive towards his goal of bipartisanship and, to the contrary, he included several swipes at the outgoing administration as well as conservatives in general. To me, his ultimatum today was the end of any pretense of bipartisanship by Obama. Obama has revealed himself as being every bit as partisan as any other politician. Which isn't surprising since he's the president... albeit a president that has reduced himself to the level of trading shots with a radio talk show host.

But I think, starting today, he can take the mask off. He's not going to unify the country. He's not even trying. So enough with the charade.

To our Republican elected officials: We don't want you to "get along" with President Obama or the Democratic majority if it means compromising conservative ideology. We didn't send you to Washington to capitulate and "get along" with the Democrats but rather to do everything you can to advance conservative ideology... even if that means losing every vote on the House and Senate floor. Even if that means being insulted condescendingly by the president, Democrat members of Congress, the press, or the blogosphere. Even if it means being labeled obstructionist and becoming unpopular. We didn't send you to Washington as tourists to merrily watch Democrats pass their legislation and grudgingly vote for bad legislation because it's going to pass anyway. Nor did we send you there to be popular. We sent you there to stand up against bad legislation every time and do it standing tall and clearly articulating conservative positions. Do not waver or we, the voters, will not waver in sending someone else to Washington.

And if Republican elected officials have to listen to Rush Limbaugh to keep themselves energized and on track, I'd rather they listen to Limbaugh than President Obama.

Update 2/2/2009: A week and a half after I wrote the above, there was further confirmation in the mainstream media that Obama's call for bipartisanship was indeed a ruse.
The decision by Obama and Democratic congressional leaders to load the stimulus with so many partisan projects is politically shrewd and economically suspect. The president's claims of bipartisanship were mostly a sham, as he skillfully maneuvered Republicans into a no-win position: Either support a Democratic program, or oppose it--and seem passive and uncaring.

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