Strange bedfellows for the new Congress?

The 112th Congress, which takes over from its predecessor 111th in two days, inherits the most miserable approval ratings ever “enjoyed” by any Congress – being viewed favorably by a paltry 13% of the American people.  Things are so bad that many observers already are asking whether the House — under GOP control for the first time in four years — will end 2011with an even lower approval rating. 

While few, if any Republican political leaders publicly would admit it, it is perhaps two Democrats who may offer the best chance for the Republicans to avoid ending their first year worse off than they began.  The names of those two men who just might provide a lifeline for the GOP?  Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. 

Notwithstanding the serious problems I and many other conservatives and libertarians have with the massive spending measures appended to the Bush tax-cut extension President Barack Obama recently signed, the fact that Obama signed the measure reflects a recognition by him that he needed to exhibit a great deal more flexibility in the second half of his first term than he showed in the first two years.  I suspect Obama’s recent meeting with Bill Clinton, a master politician possessed of an uncanny ability to bob-and-weave when necessary to score a touchdown, may have been a major catalyst in Obama’s changed modus operandi. 

Whether the president’s newly-exhibited moderation will last into the new Congress, and whether incoming-Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans will exhibit a similar pragmatic streak, is not yet clear.  The answer, however, will likely manifest itself early in the new session of the Congress, as the House moves to consider a permanent 2012 budget to replace the stopgap one signed by Obama just before Christmas.  Both sides, however, face significant roadblocks from within their own ranks to any overt compromises. 

Obama faces serious dissatisfaction from his liberal base for having compromised with the GOP in order to pass the recent tax bill, notwithstanding his victory in killing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.  Still, a serious primary challenge to his seeking reelection is highly unlikely.  The scenario for the GOP is significantly tougher.  Already, the incoming speaker is facing pressure from the bevy of 2012 presidential primary hopefuls to avoid even the appearance of compromise with the President.  

The large, middle ground of American politics may be somewhere else altogether. 

Now that last fall’s white-hot campaign rhetoric has cooled to a bright orange, many Americans are reflecting on the fact that Congress was able to get more done in December than in the previous 11 months combined, during which time not a single spending bill was passed. 

The current scenario also conjures memories of 1997, when a rejuvenated Bill Clinton, coming off a relatively easy reelection victory and not yet wounded by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, realized that plowing common ground with the Newt Gingrich-led House of Representatives could benefit both he and the GOP.  That recognition and the hard work of these two leaders (who were more alike than either would admit publicly) led to the decade’s most important piece of legislation – the Balanced Budget and Welfare Reform Act of 1997.  This watershed Act led directly to the country’s first balanced federal budget in decades, and dramatically and positively reformed welfare in ways still benefitting the states more than a dozen years later.

If Boehner and Obama are able to fashion a similar working relationship, in which both sides score their political points but at the end of the day agree on legislation that offers each side some of what it wants and needs, the groundwork could be laid for not only a productive 112th Congress, but a national campaign in which both major parties actually have something of substance on which to run in 2012.  Wouldn’t that be something?

-by Bob Barr, The Barr Code

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Buzz G

January 3rd, 2011
7:44 am

This country is $14 trillion in debt and that debt is rising fast due to government mandates. This debt will destroy this nation. This debt has to be dealt with now and that will be painful. This will not happen if the GOP moves to the mushy middle. The GOP needs to grow a backbone and face up to Obama and the leftists. The last time the GOP was in power, they spent way too much. If they do it again, hello Tea Party.

5 Easy Pieces

January 3rd, 2011
7:48 am

” I suspect Obama’s recent meeting with Bill Clinton, a master politician possessed of an uncanny ability to bob-and-weave when necessary to score a touchdown, may have been a major catalyst in Obama’s changed modus operandi. ”

Bravo, sir!

Strange Bedfellows is overlooked as topical-rut serum. Yes, it’s an archaic anachronism; a bromide for elementary upstarts who endure their first set of contractions as they give birth to metaphoric euphemisms, but it’s nearly impossible to fit any reference to Chicken Little in it.

And thus Bob Barr succeeds today!!

“If Boehner and Obama are able to fashion a similar working relationship, in which both sides score their political points but at the end of the day agree on legislation that offers each side some of what it wants and needs, the groundwork could be laid for not only a productive 112th Congress, but a national campaign in which both major parties actually have something of substance on which to run in 2012. Wouldn’t that be something?”

Never end a piece on a conditional. It smacks of “Gee, wouldn’t it be loverly? All I want is a room somewhere. Lots of chocolates for me to eat. Ah wouldn’t it be loverly. (loverly)


Or worse, it is transparently, “I’m gonna give the readers something to think about and challenge their civic-mindedness”.

Pure Cheese.

Where you should have gone is “gridlock is good. No government is good. Less everything is good. No nuthin is even better. Now get outta here!!”

The climax of the piece coulda been, “Gridlock will prevent our congress from ruining our democratic republic, and probably all of our sex lives.”

muff said


January 3rd, 2011
7:59 am

Yes, it would be, but don’t look for it. Boehner has alreay poisoned the “well” too badly. And the GOP wants to retake the Senate so it can really shake things up. The House wil pass a lot of fantasy legislation that will be DOA in the Senate. I’m not looking forward to the debate to continue when the tax relief extension expires in two years. I hope the economy has recoverd to the point we can let all the changes expire. That’s how dire the situation is. Yes, we need to reduce or freeze spending, but we have to increase revenue as well. Congress, in a rare moment of wisdom, knew the deficit would explode. That’s why it scheduled the irresponsible changes to sunset.

I would disagree about what led to the budget being nearly balanced during the Clinton administration. Yes, welfare reform played a part, but the main catalyst was the 1993 deficit reduction package passed by the Dems without a single GOP vote. If $250 billion was actually cut in spending over 5 years as advertised, then the entire amount was realized again in the 6th and each year thereafter. Remember how you and your colleagues were ringing your hands and saying we couldn’t pay off the national debt because it would disrupt the credit market?


January 3rd, 2011
8:18 am

Bob…the Republicans will do their usual gutless job of trying to correct and restrict this dictator and his party which has ruined this country. Republicans don’t have the backbone for confrontation…heck, the GOP has been impotent since the great Lee Atwater died. He knew politics was like a war between two Mafia families…you used any means to accomplish your goals and you always went for the jugular in doing it. Today’s GOP consists of folks like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, etc., folks who want to be liked by the media and the Democrats. These GOPers like that crossing the aisle. As much as I despise the Democrat Party and Obama…I’ll give them this…they play the game to win. Witness the lame-duck session…would the GOP have done all the things the Dems did as their power waned?? Of course not…they’d licked their wounds, lamented that the will of the people has spoken and we’ll let the new Congress work on things. We want to just get along and be friends. I can only hope John Boehner and his gang can start reining in Obama and reverse some of his madness…but I’m not holding my breath. Heck, this man cried like some baby in interviews and post-election press conferences. Would a Democrat have acted like that?? No…they’d be grinning and sharpening their knives and getting ready to reap the spoils of war once they got control!!! The GOP needs to remember Democrats are like rattlesnakes…and you can’t pet them, be careless with them or turn your back on them.


January 3rd, 2011
8:32 am

If you think Congress is really concerned about their poor public approval rating, think again. The only approval they are truly concened about, especially the Republicans, is their corporate special interest rating. Any and all legislation they pass will be done solely on the orders of their corporate sponsors. Even though this will eventually prove disasterous, they are so blinded by short-term gain it really doesn’t matter to them.


January 3rd, 2011
8:55 am

This is my first post of the new year. I would like to make it a magnificent one. However I need to know more about politics first. I have to know are Congressmen and Senators honest? Can I believe what they say and is there any behind the scenes deal making that I am not privy to?

The only way I can make a cogent post is to know all of the above, and the way I can know all the above is Wikileaks. However for some reason the leaks of Wikileaks have been stopped by some very powerful people.

Transparency is the key to honest government. The more we[the people] know the more democratic government will become. the latest nanny state initiative is forcing drivers suspected of DWI to give up their blood for analysis. Not right at all, but as usual, the government is doing it for our own good.

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Trapped in a Red state

January 3rd, 2011
10:05 am

GOP=party first, nation second.

Dr. Pangloss

January 3rd, 2011
10:43 am

“…could benefit both he and the GOP …”

Could benefit he? Are you a native English speaker, Bob?

Swede Atlanta

January 3rd, 2011
10:53 am

K…a proposal to require a blood test either as an option or a replacement for breathalizer is not a nanny state issue. I think you misunderstand what people who banter the notion of a “nanny state” mean.

I have not seen the proposal but I assume the logic is that blood tests are more accurate partly because false breathalizer results can occur for reasons other than drinking alcohol. The question then becomes how long will it take for someone to have their blood drawn rather than taking a breathalizer and how much more than it going to cost the state.


January 3rd, 2011
11:48 am

When this country gets rid of both Clintons and Obama we will be better off,come on 2012,2011 looks much the same-”Pathetic Leadership”


January 3rd, 2011
1:06 pm


Higher tax rates don’t mean increased government tax revenues. If you’re worried about the deficit, you should want the current tax rates made permanent, Obamacare repealed (and replaced), the tax laws simplified and the regulatory bureaucracy held in check.


January 3rd, 2011
1:08 pm


Given the situation our country is in two years into the Obama national nightmare, I’d say it’s Democrats who are party/special interests first, country second.

You Distort/We Deride

January 3rd, 2011
1:27 pm

Republicans support bipartisanship when they are the minority party in Congress. Once in a leadership position, though, they always play the “mandate” card and refuse to compromise “on their principles”. Having lived through two dozen cycles of this lunacy, all I can say is, without a viable third party to keep the Dems and Repubs honest, we’re destined to inch forward, lurch back, inch forward and lurch back ad infinitum.


January 3rd, 2011
1:39 pm

Bob, it is the 2011 budget that they are still wrangling about. The 2012 budget will be submitted to Congress by Obama about mid February.

Boehner has already called the shot for the Republicans in the House by stating that the vote on the debt ceiling will be an “adult” moment for the Republicans in the House. I could not agree more.


January 3rd, 2011
3:40 pm

New boss, same as the old boss.

Common Man

January 3rd, 2011
3:44 pm

It is naive to think that only the GOP noses up to corporate special interest groups. Likewise the Dems are in the back pockets of all the unions. They both serve other masters…not the ones that actually vote. This is a big factor in the out of control spending. Until there are drastic and painful spending cuts, the drunken sailor is going to continue on the spending binge that will wretch our economy into a state of oblivion.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 3rd, 2011
4:53 pm

I foresee little cooperation by either side. “Democrat spending” will be the battleground. While the rational approach would be to roll it all back to 2005 levels (or so) democrats will call any spending-diminishment a republican effort to starve the poor and elderly. Republican moderates may be smart enough to learn from the errors of ghosts in the current congress, and join the pressure to cut non-military spending.


January 4th, 2011
8:51 am

Oppose the deficiet always unless it interfers with tax cuts for the rich.

Republicans- the best government money can buy!

The retards live on Bookman's blog

January 4th, 2011
12:53 pm

Anyone been over on Bookman’s blog? Talk about the cream of the crap.

The retards live on Bookman's blog

January 4th, 2011
12:55 pm

“Republicans- the best government money can buy!”

What is it about the AJC that attracts high school drop outs like LeeH1N1?

fun math games

January 4th, 2011
4:42 pm


January 4th, 2011
10:19 pm

This isn’t pertinent to the topic, but so scary to me that I reach out to one with whom I agree only in cases of personal liberty.

Please tell me I have been hoaxed.


January 4th, 2011
10:29 pm

Now that I read your article, I am even more impressed. We can disagree on the government we choose, but we must pay for the government we have. I am a deficit hawk who considered President Clinton’s achievement of a balanced budget a near miracle. We need to get back to that.


January 5th, 2011
1:05 pm

The only time anything good ever comes out of a Republican congress is when there is a democrat in the white house (and even then the odds are less than 50:50). What is truly scary is to imagine just how horrible the policy making will be if the republicans win the senate again and the white house. I don’t think the constitution or american can take another 4 or worse 8 years like we had under Bush. Both parties are the scum of the earth. Non-partisan offices with candidates actually running on principles rather than platitudes would certainly be a nice change. But then I became a libertarian because I knew the two major parties are worthless.


January 6th, 2011
9:04 pm

Obama, who has no leadership or executive experience prior to becoming leader of the free world, is no Bill Clinton. All of the Adolesident’s handlers are gone now and the new round of Chicago thugs and jerks is unlikely to give a flip about anything but government unions, political graft and ego. Boehner isn’t so bad, but does he have the backbone of Gingrich? I hope so.

Still I see no solution for Boehner-Obama collaboration. The Republicans have the right idea–spending and the economy are the big issues. Obama and the fantasy island left seem to think the issues are still healthcare and balanced budget (note the difference–it’s NOT spending), still promoting the risible idea that Obamacare will lead to a balanced budget. If Obama’s lies about the preceeding helped him pass his 2000-page government monstrosity and leftist’s dream, and if he’s still using that type of language even today, what makes anyone think that there will be some magical coordination in Washington which will lead to greater confidence in those who would run businesses–with 16,000 new IRS agents meddling in their pocketbooks and private business decisions?

What makes anyone think Obama will admit that the hundreds of firms who have won exemptions from Obamacare just to stay profitable and in business, clearly demonstrate that we all should be exempt from it?


January 6th, 2011
9:05 pm


What are the libertarians doing?

They sound pretty worth less to me.