With the public on his side, Obama is playing the bad cop
Jill Lawrence NAILS IT:
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are settling into a good-cop, bad-cop routine. Biden supplies empathy, negotiating skills, and comic relief. Obama is assertive, sometimes combative, clear about what he wants and when he wants it, and given to reminders that a) he won the election and b) polls show the public agrees with his agenda.
To Republicans, some of whom are coming to recognize that compromises are necessary and even sometimes in their political interest, it feels like Obama is kicking them when they are down. (See House Speaker John Boehner: Obama is trying to “annihilate” the GOP.) For the Kumbaya crowd, with whom I have some sympathy, the signs do not bode well for an outbreak of intimate bipartisan dinner parties at the White House, or regular presidential golf and basketball outings with Republican pals. A revival of the fabled Ronald Reagan-Tip O’Neill relationship–friends after 6 p.m.–is not in the offing between Obama and Boehner.
“We can do more” to cultivate relationships, conceded senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer, and said that it would happen. “But this idea that if the president just played golf with the speaker more often or broke bread with [Senate Republican Leader Mitch] McConnell more often, all of our problems would be solved, is a relic of an entirely different era.”
The White House doesn’t have much incentive to rejigger because, surprise, polls, by and large, show that a majority of Americans like this unapologetic second-term Obama. Six in 10 people viewed him favorably in one recent poll.
Let’s stipulate that there’s deep mistrust and an even deeper ideological chasm between Republicans and Democrats, and neither will be fixed with bowling parties. That doesn’t mean we are doomed to paralysis. In today’s Washington, the path to progress is cold politics: locating the intersection of self-interest for both parties. Immigration reform, which Republicans need badly, is one of those intersections. Gun research and background checks may be another. Taxes and spending are the stickiest issues, especially with this week’s GDP news foreshadowing an economic slowdown if the federal government makes sharp spending cutbacks. But there is room for compromise if both sides are convinced it’s in their interest.
Still, Republicans should be forewarned: They’ll be dealing with a president who is feeling less patient and more empowered than he was in his first term and one who, for now, has the public in his corner.