During the recent debt crisis, President Obama talked about the need for bipartisan compromise and, as in the past, urged civility. Giving ground and engaging in polite discourse, of course, can be noble aims. But, like most one-eyed-jack politicians, Obama has rarely embraced the admirable qualities he advocates -- a fact increasingly evident to a skeptical public.
In 2006, then-Senator Obama voted against the Bush administration's request to raise the debt ceiling -- when the national debt was about 60 percent of what it is now. He did not show up for similar votes in 2007 and 2008. In that regard, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opposed every request when Republicans were in control of the Senate to raise the debt ceiling. Of course, such an unthinking party-line voter is exactly the sort of partisan senator or congressman that President Obama now deplores.
In fact, in 2007 the National Journal found that Obama's voting record was the most partisan in the entire U.S. Senate -- further to the hard-line left than the Senate's only self-described socialist, Bernie Sanders, more predictably partisan than even the most consistently conservative senator that year, Jim DeMint. At the time, Senator Obama unapologetically wished to advance a hardcore liberal agenda, and he saw no reason to backtrack from it or compromise on it.
President Obama has repeatedly derided the sort of Republican partisanship that led the current minority party in the Senate to filibuster some of his appointments -- most prominently his nomination of Goodwin Liu to the federal bench. But Senator Obama not long ago strongly advocated such partisan obstructionism when out of power he praised the filibuster as much as he now deplores it while in power. Indeed, he joined a filibuster to deny votes on the nominations of both Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court and John Bolton to the U.N. ambassadorship.
After the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, President Obama made yet another call for a new civility, urging us all to tone down our partisan rhetoric. But slash-and-burn talk is unfortunately the mother's milk of politics -- and no one knows that better than Chicago politician and apparently amnesiac Barack Obama, who as a state legislator, U.S. senator and president has always excelled in the use of uncivil rhetoric and personal invective.