Obama's Balancing Act
By Ben Pershing
Which Barack Obama will predominate for the next four years? The one who dined with conservative columnists Tuesday night, drawing praise for being "well-informed" with "a great smile"? Or the one who will likely sign a stimulus plan that attracts far fewer Republican votes, and contains fewer tax cuts, than he originally hoped?
The answer, of course, is both. But this is the balance that may well define the foundational stage of Obama's presidency, as he pledges to change the tone and partisanship of Washington even while his party commands nearly unchecked power. After all, why should congressional Democrats compromise with Republicans on the stimulus bill? The majority doesn't really need the minority to get the bill passed, nor does this seem to be the kind of politically radioactive measure that requires each side to give the other cover. The result, then, is that Democrats have been pushing Obama's initial proposal steadily to the left since it was unveiled, with GOP support dropping off along the way.
At the same time -- dinners with columnists and invitations to speak aside -- it's not as though most Republicans are going out of their way to make Obama's life easier, nor should they. Tim Geithner's confirmation has been put off for a week, as some GOP senators voice skepticism about his past tax mistakes. Eric Holder's confirmation, which begins today, will be no picnic. Arlen Specter, Holder's chief GOP inquisitor, even wrote an op-ed this morning telegraphing one likely line of questioning. And you can expect to hear Rod Blagojevich's name invoked frequently.
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