By letting Congress cobble together the signature item of his first hundred days in office, the president has made clear that he’s not calling the shots in Washington. As Camille Paglia, one of his most enthusiastic supporters, put it, “To defer to the House of Representatives and let the bill be thrown together by cacophonous mob rule made the president seem passive and behind the curve.”
Obama could have demonstrated real leadership had he, together with leaders of both parties in both Houses of Congress, worked out a “stimulus” package.Â It might have been just as costly as the current spendthrift proposal, but at least he could have claimed to have taken the lead in crafting it.
Just as Mr. Obama has failed so far as a leader, so too has he failed to bring a new tone to Washington as he had promised in the campaign.Â He continues to rail against the “past eight years” and accuse his Republican adversaries of partisanship, yet even his own Transportation Secretary, himself a Republican, sympathizes with his former congressional colleagues’ frustration: they “like to be in the room when these things are put together. And they haven’t been. And so I think they were a bit offended by that.”
Pete Wehner sums up Obama’s new partisan politics:
Obama himself never made a serious play at bipartisan cooperation. What he did was allow Nancy Pelosi and liberal House Democrats to write the legislation. Republicans were shut out. And once the legislation emerged, Republicans were asked to come on board.
It’s as if president believes bipartisanship is when Republicans support of Democratic policies.
No wonder his rhetoric has become increasing partisan as a supermajority of Republicans, standing true to their conservative principles, balk at his spendthrift plans. And now, as Jennifer Rubin puts it, “Even liberal and mainstream reporters are growing weary of the president’s partisan rhetoric.”
His partisan rhetoric is a reflection of his governing style. He yields to the most partisan members of Congress to draft important legislation. And by letting them take the lead here, by failing to include Republicans before signing on to the Democrats’ proposal while faulting his ideological adversaries for their principled stand, he showed that his politics are not new. That is, unless you believe partisan grandstanding to be a novel form of governing.