Never before has so much been squandered for so many by so few. And that isn’t even counting the ridiculously ineffective and wasteful trillion-dollar “stimulus” package poised to emerge from the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Less than three weeks ago, Barack Obama assumed office with higher public hopes and more good-will than any new President has enjoyed in a generation. But through a combination of what looks suspiciously like arrogance and inexperience, the bloom is quickly fading from the Obama rose. If there are three lessons that the President might draw from his aborted honeymoon, they are that:
(1) Bipartisanship Requires More Than Words.
From his days on The Harvard Law Review forward, Barack Obama gained a reputation for “bipartisanship.” The problem? His much vaunted bridge-building was always a matter more of style than of substance. He would treat those who disagreed with him with great politeness and civility, listen their views, and then ignore them.
In environments like a law school campus, or Chicago city politics, or Illinois state politics – where liberals overwhelmingly outnumber conservatives – bipartisan words, without action, are enough. Where conservatives are otherwise completely disregarded and routinely treated with contempt, respectful words can secure their support and even a certain degree of affection. Throughout his life, Barack Obama has blossomed primarily in liberal hothouses; perhaps it’s no surprise that he concluded that a little lip service would fulfill the demands of bipartisanship. Indeed, even as a presidential candidate, Obama’s rhetoric extolling the benefits of “working together” successfully obscured his highly partisan voting record.
Perhaps that’s why the President believed that simply talking to Republicans would be enough to secure their support for the stimulus package, even though the final product reflected none of their input. But on the national stage, where liberals still have real competition for votes, words alone aren’t enough. Bipartisanship requires action – and meaningful compromise.
(2) Hell Hath No Fury Like the Media Scorned.
Hard-core Democrat partisans will stick with Obama no matter what he does. But he wooed many in the media through the promise of being different from the usual politician – more bipartisan, more principled, and committed to be a less contentious, more genial way of practicing politics.