By John Feehery
The president and his team have a new strategy in dealing with congressional Republicans.
Mr. Obama went to Baltimore last Friday and took more than an hour of his schedule to thrust and parry with the abused House Republican minority.
And then yesterday morning, David Axelrod, the president’s top strategist, went on “Meet the Press” right before House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and continued the administration’s efforts to promote the new theme: The House Republicans share responsibility for the White House failures.
Some have likened the Baltimore conference meeting to a marriage therapy session. Like a counseling session, it had a lot of bickering, some fundamental disagreements in strategy, but overall, a commitment to work together.
But Republicans and the president are not married. They aren’t even dating. As a matter of fact, truth be told, they don’t even like each other that much.
For the president to make the assertion that we are all in this together is complete nonsense. Yes, in a general way, we all want the country to prosper and we want jobs to come back and we want to beat the terrorists and all that stuff.
But Republicans disagree fundamentally with where the president wants to take this country. They don’t want the government to act as a great wealth redistributor. They don’t want the government to dictate and control the healthcare marketplace. They don’t want a stimulus package that creates hundreds of thousands of government jobs while creating few jobs in the private sector. They don’t want to add a trillion dollars more in debt in unnecessary spending.
So, if the president can’t get that agenda through the House and the Senate, that is completely fine with congressional Republicans.
The president says that he has incorporated some of their ideas into his proposals. That is fine. But adding a few really nice deck chairs wasn’t going to make the Titanic sail any better, and vaguely promising to expand exports to Colombia and South Korea isn’t going to make the president’s agenda any more palatable for most of this center-right country.
House Republicans, by the way, don’t run the House. Senate Republicans, by the way, don’t run the Senate. And the fact of the matter is that the president has overwhelming majorities in both bodies, a fact he himself acknowledged in the State of the Union address. If the Democrats weren’t so incompetent and weren’t so out of touch with their constituents, they should have easily completed much of their agenda by now.
Blaming Republicans for this startling lack of production is laughable. Complaining that Republicans aren’t helping to pass an agenda that they fundamentally disagree with is intellectually dishonest.
Some Republicans may be uncomfortable with the “do nothing” label, but when it comes to the Obama agenda, they should wear that label proudly. Yes, they should be promoting “better solutions” at every opportunity. That doesn’t mean that anyone will take those alternatives seriously until they retake the House (and the Senate, hopefully). But it is always better to say, “No, but,” than it is “No, just no,” especially when it comes to issues that the American people care about.
The GOP needs to be wary of a clever White House strategy of prematurely linking the fortunes of Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans. When Mr. Boehner becomes Speaker, he will have to work with Mr. Obama, because that is how our Constitution works. But right now, he should continue to do what he is doing: stopping, to the best of his ability, Mr. Obama when he takes the country in the wrong direction.