In 2010, two former Bush attorneys wrote an opinion piece in which they urged Bush to call the Dems' bluff on "phony" pro forma sessions. Bush did not oblige. He may not have liked the "phony" rules, but he showed respect for the Senate's prerogative.
What would happen if Obama were to win re-election this year but the GOP won the Senate? How would Obama get anything done?
"He's poisoning the well," observed University of California, Berkeley law professor and former Bush administration attorney John Yoo. Worse: "This is going on when his party is in charge."
This is how little Obamaland respects Reid's Senate. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog Wednesday, "The Senate has effectively been in recess for weeks, and is expected to remain in recess for weeks." Then Pfeiffer attacked the pro forma gimmick.
"It was during one of those pro forma sessions, which they call a gimmick, that we passed the two-month extension for the payroll tax holiday," Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dryly observed. On Dec. 23, the Senate gave Obama what he wanted. As a reward, the administration says the Senate wasn't really doing anything.
Republicans scratch their heads. For years, the chattering classes bemoaned Bush's copious use of executive power. Yet when Obama steps on the Senate, news reports describe Obama's behavior as bold and media-savvy.
The bigger issue, however, concerns Team Obama's apparent decision to win re-election by playing to the liberal base, not the American political middle. While the administration should be working to heal the economy, the administration is busy pointing fingers at bad Republicans.
Tea Party Express co-founder Sal Russo likened the Obama strategy to Bush guru Karl Rove's strategy to win re-election in 2004 by ginning up the base. Russo doesn't see how it could work for the Democrats this year.
To independent voters especially, the president's failure to work with Congress doesn't compute. "Look, you're president," Russo said. "Why can't you just walk over to Congress and talk to these guys?"
To the average Joe, there's only one standard, noted Russo. "You've got to get the job done."