A Meaningless Cliche, and Some Meaningful Bravado

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Jan 24, 2009 3:12 PM
A friend just emailed me this story from yesterday's Washington Post, wherein John McCain excoriates his fellow Republicans for having the nerve to question whether it's appropriate for the Secretary of State's husband to be receiving donations from foreign sources.  In that context, McCain had this to say:

I remind all my colleagues: We had an election.  I think the message the American people are sending us now is that they want us to work together, and get to work.

These claims are not new, coming from McCain.  But they are meaningless.  After all, the American people certainly want politicians to "work together," but only on behalf of causes with which they agree (no one would want politicians united, say, in a drive to raise taxes on everyone by 50%).  So the claim isn't true as a universal, but only (perhaps) in a particular situation.

What's more, McCain is plenty willing to speak out when he disagrees with the policy on the table -- one thing he touted in the campaign was his "independence," i.e. his unwillingness to go along with policies he opposed.  So, in the end, McCain's call for "working together" only seem to apply when he objects to people objecting to the matter at hand.  As I said, the whole "let's work together" thing is a meaningless exhortation designed to bully those who have the effrontery to do anything with which McCain disagrees. 

McCain seems totally on message with the new President's bracing reminder to Republicans that "I won."  It boggles the mind to think of the press reaction had President Bush asserted the same (true) fact -- certainly in 2001, but even, too, in 2004.   This is bravado with meaning --  quite likely a signal that Obama's "bipartisanship" extends only to rhetoric and concessions that mean little to him, rather than all the way to real compromise.