The Obama I remember

It’s the same one Andrew Sullivan remembers (in response to a Peggy Noonan column blaming the president for the rabid partisanship that characterizes Washington today):

Funny how the first group of non-pols that Obama sat down with were leading conservative writers, like Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer (the liberals came second); that he asked Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Inauguration; that his stimulus was a third tax cuts (the only big tax cuts Republicans have ever voted against in my memory); that his healthcare reform was not single-payer, but one modeled on Mitt Romney’s moderate version in Massachusetts; that he has given Israel more military and technological support than any previous president; that his foreign policy is now praised by his opponent; that he killed bin Laden; and gave a speech urging freedom in the Arab world in his first few months, and that popular democratic revolutions broke out in Iran, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya on his watch. Funny also how one of the first things Obama did was to extend the Bush tax cuts – such an obvious partisan move designed to shut Republican ideas out of his agenda…

More to the point, the set of actions I have outlined above could quite easily have been George W. Bush’s agenda (or David Cameron’s, if he were on the right of his own party). There was plenty of compromise by Obama from the beginning, both symbolically and substantively. But a Republican decision was made that, even in the worst recession since the 1930s (whose impact on unemployment was devastating) not a single Republican House vote would go for the stimulus. It shocked me at the time, coming so soon after such a big election. I was naive enough to think that an emergency action that prevented a second Great Depression was something the opposition party might have supported, after losing an election badly to a newly elected president in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. I naively believed that just as a group of Democrats had supported Ronald Reagan’s massive tax cut because they thought he had a mandate for one, a group of House Republicans might put country before party and give the man who ran on bipartisanship a chance.

Instead, they set out from Day One to destroy him, because they knew that if his moderation and modern cultural identity succeeded, their reactionary radicalism would be sidelined for good. And Rove’s method is always to see what your party’s own worst flaw is among the public and, with a straight face, accuse your opponent of it.

You know what we’re fighting in this election? That cumulative, snow-balling, post-modern, cynical faction of deceit and partisan amnesia. If we are to get past the Cold Civil War we are in, the defeat of the rigidly ideological and theiological GOP is vital.

Amen, brother. Obama’s greatest mistake was to harbor any illusions whatsoever that the Republican Party was even remotely interested in governing the country like a responsible group of elected representatives.


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