Obama and the GOP

By Dan Froomkin
2:17 PM ET, 01/27/2009

Janet Hook and Peter Nicholas write in the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama travels to the Capitol today to meet with House and Senate Republicans, the latest in a series of high-profile efforts to reach across the aisle and make good on his campaign promise to swim against the partisan tide that has flooded Washington for decades.

"So far, his gestures have shown few signs of success, as Republicans have continued to snipe at his signature initiative -- legislation to stimulate the economy -- and even to question the sincerity of his efforts. In the stimulus bill's first two tests last week, it passed two committees without a single Republican vote.

"But whether or not he picks up support from Republican lawmakers, Obama has already accomplished one important aim: He is winning over more Republican voters than he did on election day. If that continues, the president's hand could get stronger on Capitol Hill.

"'You don't calculate the impact of his effort in terms of the number of votes he gets on the stimulus bill,' said Bill McInturff, a GOP pollster who worked for Obama's campaign rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). 'You calculate it based on how he is perceived by Republicans around the country, and it looks to be substantially more positive.'"

Molly K. Hooper and Jared Allen write for The Hill: "Republicans are expected to press the president strongly on the stimulus bill, and if the meeting becomes tense, it would quickly remind voters that partisanship in the nation's capital -- despite Obama's vow to reduce it -- is alive and well.

"There are risks for Republicans as well. If they are highly critical of the popular president, Democrats could portray them as 'childish' -- a pointed word used by Obama in his Inaugural address to denigrate political gamesmanship."

I wrote yesterday about the possibility that GOP intransigence will stymie Obama's attempts to get his massive economic stimulus bill passed in a bipartisan fashion. Indeed, it was notable that Obama had to remind GOP leaders on Friday that he won the election. They aren't really acting like they lost at all.

Slate's John Dickerson wonders, now that some Republicans have said they intend to vote against the plan: "How will Obama respond? In the face of increased opposition, how much will Obama work for bipartisanship as an end in itself? Will he agree to GOP modifications to buy votes, or will he accept puny GOP support because he knows that, in the end, voters are more interested in action than whether he lived up to some standard of bipartisanship that he set for himself?"

New York Times opinion columnist Bob Herbert has some very different questions: "What's up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state? . . .

"The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class. (Forget the poor. Nobody talks about them anymore, not even the Democrats.) The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare. . . .

"When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen. Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles. . . .

"Why is anyone still listening?"

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