Does Gregg Withdrawal End Era of Bipartisanship Before it Began?

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in Barack, Obama Appointments, Stimulus

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Senator Judd Gregg’s sudden withdrawal as the Commerce Secretary nominee raises some disturbing questions. If, as reports indicate, he was soured by the stimulus bill, we have to ask whether President Obama has killed his hopes for bipartisanship before his presidency is even a month old.

By allowing the Democrats, particularly the House Democrats, to all but brush aside Republican concerns, has Obama ruined his chance to work across the aisle? Losing a cabinet nominee over the issue proves the hard feelings about the stimulus package are no small matter. Even if Gregg quit for a variety of reasons, the fact he chose to mention the stimulus has to be concerning for all of us who’ve hoped for a less partisan Washington.

For better or worse, Obama and the Democrats decided their version of the stimulus was too important to delay until a bipartisan bill could be reached. Maybe they’re right. Maybe this was an “act now or die” moment and the Republicans were putting the future of the nation at risk with their obstinacy. But, right or wrong, it looks like Obama will have to work hard on the next few big issues to give his dream of unity a fighting chance. Cut out the Republicans again and it’s going to be a long four years.


This entry was posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2009 and is filed under Barack, Obama Appointments, Stimulus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

20 Responses to “Does Gregg Withdrawal End Era of Bipartisanship Before it Began?”

  1. mw Says:

    Lets be realistic. There was no real bipartisan effort, there is no real bipartisan effort and there will be no real bipartisan effort on the part of the administration for a very simple reason – there is no need. To drive the administration’s ideological agenda through Congress, to get anything they want passed, requires nothing more than buying two Republican senators per bill. And if we know anything about Republican Senators, it is that they are for sale. You can always buy two. All the administration needs to do on any bill, is keep the conservative Democratic Senators in line. They are the only ones that can stop an Obama bill. The Republicans are irrelevant.

    The real need by the administration, is for a boatload of bipartisan BS to shovel around every bill and give it that special fragrance. That is why every single “bipartisan outreach” effort on the part of the administration on the stimulus bill was accompanied by trumpets, heralds, dancing girls, leaping lords, an avalanche of press releases, and a press entourage to capture the photo-op. All Kabuki theater.

    The truth is in the content of the bill. It started as a 100% Nancy Pelosi House Democrat bill. And it finished as 90% of that bill – according to Claire McCaskill. The rest is smoke and mirrors. A show for the evening news. Nothing more. Moreover, I expect nothing more out of this administration for the next four years. The die is cast.

  2. mike mcEachran Says:

    These opinions are damn near foolish. But I guess in your position, I’d stretch, too. Yawn.

    BTW, mw, get your own allusions. I already called one of your posts a wafty pile of BS. You’re writing fiction anyway, so be a little more original, will ya?

  3. Jim S Says:

    “Let’s be realistic.” That’s really funny given the rest of the post.

  4. michael reynolds Says:

    I think you’re flat wrong, Alan. Obama did try bipartisanship. The bill is 60/40 spending/tax cuts. Items the GOP objected to were cut. The overall size of the bill dropped 15%. Obama has solicited opinions — from the party whose ideology and leadership contributed so significantly to the very problems Mr. Obama is now tasked with fixing.

    The GOP has decided on confrontation and obstruction. They’ve concluded that’s their best play. I think they’re fools, but it was either obstruct or change. The Republicans can’t change as long as the leader of the party is Rush Limbaugh.

    Obama will continue to reach out to Republicans. They’ll continue to stiff-arm the Democrats.

    The GOP has bet on American failure. It was either change, or bet against their own country and they chose the latter — a mirror image of Democrats who bet on American failure in Iraq. It’s as contemptible now as it was then.

  5. Justin Gardner Says:

    Yeah, I still don’t see how Dems didn’t at least try to make the stimulus bi-partisan given how many tax cuts are in the proposal (Dem economists have been calling for half that amount) and the fact that the overall cost decreased pretty significantly when you consider total dollars. I mean, it wasn’t going to drop 30%. And it wasn’t like Dems weren’t going to write this bill. They’re in power. That’s how it works. And then you try to seek compromise, and they found some common ground with a few moderate Republicans.

    Also, I guess I’m wondering what the deal is with everybody saying that bipartisanship is dead. This is ONE bill. True, it’s a biggie, but we’re in the first month of Obama’s term. In other words, people need to calm down and wait a year. Then we’ll see start to get a clearer picture.

    But Michael, I have to disagree with you in one very important regard. Dems, even the most liberal, pretty much unanimously gave Bush the authority to go to war. By and large, Republicans aren’t giving Obama anything to save the economy. And Dems waited to cry foul until they started to see Bush make some incredibly questionable moves that then lead to what we all feared: a quagmire. I think there’s a big difference between the two. If I could draw a parallel, this would be like the Dems not agreeing to give Bush the authority to go into Afghanistan.

  6. Rich Horton Says:

    You know I’d understand the hemming and hawing were the Senator in question someone like Snowe who isn’t an ideological conservative. But Gregg was always going to be at odds with a good part of the Obama agenda. I think it quickly became apparent he was going to be isolated within a cabinet that is quite ideologically liberal.

    Should he have realized that before agreeing to come on board? Yes.

    But is this some sort of a shocking development? Not really.

    I mean, who really thought Gregg was going to last for four years.

  7. Doug Mataconis Says:

    So what are Republicans and the rest of us who think Obama’s stimulus plan is a horribly bad idea, or that his idea of getting the government even more involved in the health care system would be a disaster, supposed to do — roll over and play dead ?

    It seems to me that the current definition of bipartisanship involves letting the left get away with whatever they want and not complaining. If that’s what it’s supposed to be, then the heck with it.

  8. kranky kritter Says:

    I think Michael makes a very good point that the bill as currently constituted reflects input from both parties, especially given the balance that he describes. That makes it bipartisan regardless of the final vote tally.

    Think about it. The GOP was involved, they made criticisms, the bill changed as a result. The people’s business got done with input from both parties. Then, as many republicans as possible are going to vote against it to provide political cover with their constituencies.

    If the rookie battles through a 13- pitch first at bat and then strikes out, do you automatically assume he doesn’t have what it takes? No, you don’t. Now is a time for patient watching and careful scorekeeping. It’s not the time to rush to judgement.

    There are so many people out there who can’t wait to rush to judgement and declare that all their biases and perspectives about politics are right. That’s what I feel from all the partisans. They can’t wait to be right. This is a very sad thing.

  9. Doug Mataconis Says:

    kk,

    Think about it. The GOP was involved, they made criticisms, the bill changed as a result. The people’s business got done with input from both parties. Then, as many republicans as possible are going to vote against it to provide political cover with their constituencies.

    The problem is that some people seem to think that there’s something wrong with the fact contained in that last sentence.

  10. michael reynolds Says:

    Justin:

    I agree that Dems (me included) handed Bush a lot of our trust early in the war. But once things went south many on the Left — not including me — gave the very distinct impression that they had become invested in the narrative of US failure. I’m not impugning genuine critics of Mr. Bush’s incompetence — again, I was one — but there’s a line that some people crossed.

    Of course in this case the GOP crossed that line more or less on day one . . .

  11. kranky kritter Says:

    Well Doug, that’s what happens when you insist on measuring against idealism instead of realism. And it’s not that there’s nothing wrong with it. It took me quite awhile to accept that part of passing legislation is the theater that goes along with it. The GOP wants to signal that this bill would absolutely have looked substantially different if they had been in charge. I don’t mind that.

    I continue to think that the real big test will be healthcare. Many more jobless americans and their families will be cast into a spot without healthcare as the downturn endures (quite possibly roughly a doubling or more, I think you can expect). Congress will have to do something for all those families who won’t be able to afford cobra and then won’t be able to afford paying full cost, especially without the discounts that group purchasing power provide.

    Congress will have to find a way to step up, and any hybrid solution will involve much broader cross-aisle cooperation, I think.

  12. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    I think part of the problem here is that “bipartisan” is not the same as “includes ideas from multiple sources.” Obviously the stimulus did include some ideas more typically found to the right of center. And for those of you who feel the bill is, as a whole, closer to the center than anywhere else, that’s a defensible position. But bipartisanship is about more than including ideas from the other side (although that’s an integral step). It’s about being able to create political consensus. “Political” being the key word. In that regard, Obama has stumbled out of the gate. Perhaps he expected too much from Republicans. Or perhaps, like Bush before him (who managed a lot of consensus in Texas), he misjudged how petty Washington is.

    My view of things rests somewhere between the Obama pessimism of MW and the “blame the GOP” attitude of Michael. I don’t believe bipartisanship is still born (hence the question mark in the title of the post) but neither do I believe Obama has helped himself build unity with the way the stimulus went through Congress.

  13. michael reynolds Says:

    KK:

    There are so many people out there who can’t wait to rush to judgement and declare that all their biases and perspectives about politics are right. That’s what I feel from all the partisans. They can’t wait to be right. This is a very sad thing.

    Very well put. So well put, in fact, that I’d expect it to show up on my blog at some point with me pretending to have written it.

  14. kranky kritter Says:

    Mike, you still overseas in Italy?

    Alan, without being cynical, I think it may be realistic to see the kind of bipartisanship you describe occur only in particular instances.

    One example would be the support Bush got for the Iraq War resolution. There was either widespread agreement or the anti-position was essentially politically untenable. That’s usually the same thing, BTW.

    Or, there is an important and truly urgent issue on which neither party has a unified opinion. This is the condition that I think/hope healthcare will represent. We’ll see greatly increased urgency to provide affordable healthcare to the swelling ranks of uninsured displaced workers who have been losing their jobs in large numbers over recent months.

    The liberal wing of the democrats will insist on a cadillac plan that gives it away free to lower income folks and puts a big burden on the middle class. Which they’ll deny by pointing to cosmetic big whacks at high earners that are in fact insufficient to cover the costs. The true-believer anti-gov free market wing of the GOP will insist on no more than a barebones stopgap measure while complaining about the deficit and insisting the market can fix itself. (IOW, basically the same act we have just seen)

    It’ll be up to a genuine middle to generate a viable solution on this one. That makes it the acid test of how much bipartisanship is possible.

  15. Doug Mataconis Says:

    ipartisanship is about more than including ideas from the other side (although that’s an integral step). It’s about being able to create political consensus. “Political” being the key word. In that regard, Obama has stumbled out of the gate. Perhaps he expected too much from Republicans. Or perhaps, like Bush before him (who managed a lot of consensus in Texas), he misjudged how petty Washington is.

    I think Obama’s biggest mistake was letting Pelosi and Reid run the show.

    He may have an interest in bipartisanship. They quite obviously don’t.

  16. John Burke Says:

    It would be better to refer to the need for a national consensus, rather than simply a bipartisan coalition, although the latter is more likely to arise if the former exists. I think this is what Alan is getting at.

    So far, we have the Democrats claiming a national consensus based on their having won the election. Since they have the votes and the White House to sign bills, they can do this. However, it does not mean they have the broad-based popular support for the stimulus or anything else. If they don’t, they will lose a lot of ground in the 2010 midterms. Democrats who want to move the country in their direction over time would do well to be more careful.

    While I think the parallels to the Depression and the New Deal have been overdone, there is a political lesson: FDR managed to keep building support, year by year, and election by election, through the 30s and into the war years, and Truman carried that approach on.

    How? FDR did not come into office and revolutionize everything in 100 days, although that has become the foolish, simplified version. Actually, FDR listen to a wide range of people and included in his cabinet and entourage advisors of many stripes. He tried one thing, then switched to another. He forged coalitions with various political factions from southern and northern conservative Democrats and no to prairie populist Republicans and unions. Most of all, he worked hard to build publc understanding and support and to educate people, not con them.

  17. michael reynolds Says:

    KK:
    Nope, I am back in the US of A. Southern California. I just had too much work on my plate to deal with the situation I was in in Italy.

  18. kranky kritter Says:

    Well, best of luck. Weren’t you in the carolinas B4? Watcha doing on SO Cal, bargain hunting? :-)

  19. mw Says:

    My view of things rests somewhere between the Obama pessimism of MW and the “blame the GOP” attitude of Michael. – ASC

    I prefer to think of it as “cynical realism”.

  20. John Milligan Says:

    I take Gregg at his word that he had a change of heart. People do. And Obama was sincere in bringing him in and to “The Table”. Gregg may be better situated (for Obama) to remain up on Cap Hill esp with the looming Entitlement debates to come. That said I think Chuck Hagel would be a good substitute nom for Commerce secretary. He has business background, International experience, knows the Hill and would be great chiming in at the Cabinet Table and boosting the Obama bipartisan creds.

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