Obama tried too hard to work with Republicans

WASHINGTON —  Amplified by the right-wing message machine, Republicans paint President Obama as an unyielding left-winger, an unreconstructed liberal who refuses to compromise. The president’s critics have turned the truth inside out: One of Obama’s greatest political weaknesses has been his stubborn — and unrequited — love for bipartisanship.

The president has made some of his biggest mistakes trying to woo a GOP opposition that has committed itself to frustrating him at every turn. If he had ignored recalcitrant Republicans, for example, his health care legislation might have become law without months of damaging political drama.

In an interview last week in his West Wing office, David Axelrod, one of Obama’s closest advisers, acknowledged that the administration had been surprised by the unified Republican resistance to the president’s agenda.

“Well, I think we miscalculated,” Axelrod said. “We had the idea that, particularly in a time of national crisis, there would be more of an inclination to work together.

“One of the bracing moments was when the president was on his way over . . to Capitol Hill to talk to the Republican House caucus about the Recovery Act. They issued a press release while he was on his way over to say that they were going to vote en masse against it. And that was a signal . . of things to come.”

The  American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February 2009 without a single vote from a Republican in the House and the backing of just three in the Senate, even though nearly a third of it came in the form of tax cuts — usually a GOP tool for fixing anything. Most economists have credited the stimulus package with creating jobs and helping to end the recession, but Republicans continue to denounce it as boondoggle that blew a hole in the federal budget.

“I think the Republicans have been diabolically clever about how they’ve portrayed this,” Axelrod conceded. “They stood on the sidelines and made a decision that ‘we’re going to let him wrestle with this mess that we created. And then in two years we can try and hang him with it.’ “

After the stimulus, Obama and his Democratic allies tried to negotiate with GOP leaders on health insurance reform — a decision that gave critics time to mischaracterize the proposal and gin up opposition. Remember death panels? Government-funded abortions? Rationing?

Still, Obama kept going back with proposals meant to lure a few Republican votes for his agenda. That led to his disastrous announcement, just weeks before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, to expand off-shore drilling.

While Alexrod denied that the announcement amounted to a “quid pro quo,” Obama clearly believed that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and a couple of other GOP senators would, in exchange, support groundbreaking energy legislation that included a price on carbon emissions.

Obama didn’t get what he bargained for. The months-long environmental disaster dominated news coverage, obscured the president’s work on the economy and gave his critics more fodder to claim his administration is incompetent. And, since the accident forced the White House to tiptoe away from its eager embrace of off-shore drilling, it also provided Graham an excuse to back away from energy legislation.

A naïve expectation of bipartisan cooperation hasn’t been Obama’s only mistake. He waited until the last possible moment to try to inspire his base for the mid-term elections. Unlike Ronald Reagan, whose poll ratings were slightly lower than Obama’s just before the 1982 mid-term elections, Obama didn’t take every possible opportunity to pin the economic mess on his predecessor.

Nor did the president tamp down the huge expectations generated by his historic election. That has proved costly, as was clear during the president’s encounter with the “exhausted” Velma Hart, a supporter who questioned him during a recent town hall-style meeting.

“There’s no doubt that part of what we’ve encountered is the mismatch between very, very high expectations and the magnitude of the problems that we’ve been called upon to solve,” Alexrod said.

But the expected Republican gains in the coming mid-term elections may solve one of Obama’s problems: his misplaced faith in logic, persuasion and cooperation in the national interest. Tea-party-fueled anger has produced a wave of GOP candidates for whom the word “compromise” is akin to treason. There can be no miscalculation about their intentions.

1,244 comments Add your comment

LisaX

October 15th, 2010
8:06 pm

Wow, we’re really scared, Sid. You *might* get the House. There are *very slim odds* you might get the Senate. The opposing party usually makes gains at midterms–but you all are struggling because you’ve nominated so many wackos like Christine O’Donnell. And you know what, we’ll still have the White House and the power to veto any mischief from you Republicans.

Ivan

October 15th, 2010
8:08 pm

When the people see how the Republicans abuse their power and try to investigate Obama and waste taxpayer $$$s for nothing, as they did under Clinton, it will be the end of this “tea party” fad.

Malcolm

October 15th, 2010
8:10 pm

LisaX, I agree with your comments. Where is all that money coming from? What a scandal it’s going to be when people find out.

Mugwa

October 15th, 2010
8:12 pm

So you moved to DC from Atlanta Cynthia to become a professional Obama groupie. Then you refuse to acknolwdge that your people are still supporting him by 91^ despite the evidence that he will go down in history as the biggest bum President there ever was.

Let’s get some honesty here Cynthia. Your observations aren’t credible at all. You thought you were going to be a paid party apartchik for the Bama and its turning south.

Tom O.

October 15th, 2010
8:13 pm

The Republicans are just fear-mongers. They try to demonize blacks, immigrants, gays, Muslims, anyone who is not just like them. Fascists always need to scapegoat someone. And who benefits from it all? Only the super-rich. Because that’s who the Republicans really serve.

Tom O.

October 15th, 2010
8:15 pm

“Mugwa” you obviously know nothing about history. A poll of credible historians rates Obama so far as the 15th best president in history. You can guess where they rate W by comparison. Yep, bottom of the barrel . . .

Salim

October 15th, 2010
8:16 pm

People definitely need to ask themselves where all the money is coming from to pay for those Republican attack ads by “shadow groups.” They cannot be trusted at all.

Lady GooGoo

October 15th, 2010
8:24 pm

My compliments. Quite impressive, Ms. Tucker. In fact, I’d venture to say that even Joseph Goebbels would be threatened by the quality of this piece.

Tony Olivera

October 15th, 2010
8:26 pm

The more I see of these Republican candidates, the less I like them. And I’ve turned off the TV because of all those ads full of lies.

el polacko

October 15th, 2010
8:30 pm

i am bewildered by ms.tucker’s article. is she a partisan liar or just really that clueless ?? barack has done nothing but blame bush for every and anything and whine, in an extremely partisan fashion, that the repubs were preventing him from moving his agenda forward…despite the fact that the dems had both the house and senate and could have passed any darned thing they chose to and that repubs were, literally. locked out of meetings. cynthia either needs to check into the betty ford clinic or be laughed off the page. she is deluded.

Thomas Paine

October 15th, 2010
8:30 pm

By the way, Cynthia, you’re the reason I canceled my AJC subscription last year. I just had too much of your left wing crap.

Thomas Paine

October 15th, 2010
8:32 pm

i am bewildered by ms.tucker’s article. is she a partisan liar or just really that clueless ??

Both, actually.

bullet county

October 15th, 2010
8:32 pm

41 senators should be/could be convicted of treason, and you all know their names.

judson

October 15th, 2010
8:33 pm

What can you expect from an Auburn Grad, couldn’t get into Uga or Ga Tech

LisaX

October 15th, 2010
8:34 pm

Cynthia Tucker is absolutely right. This has been the most obstructionist Republican minority in all of history. Obama has tried to work with them, but they just spat at him. “NO! NO! NO!” is all they know.

Cam Winston

October 15th, 2010
8:35 pm

Sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder of why you were demoted, Ms. Tucker.

Ivan

October 15th, 2010
8:35 pm

The real Thomas Paine was a liberal. Duh.

F McBlumkin

October 15th, 2010
8:35 pm

WOW…your article personifies what is wrong with America….morons like you are allowed to vote.

Does the wieght from carrying Obama’s water give you a backache?

TeaPartyPleas

October 15th, 2010
8:36 pm

Since the Republicans were locked out of and ignored on nearly every major initiative pushed by the Dems since the uhOhs coronation, and in fact most of his bills were written by lobbyists behind closed doors where sometimes the voices of reason were PHYSICALLY LOCKED OUT, this is an utterly delusional article. The most pointedly divisive President in my lifetime. Incredible the lengths dems will go to in order to find someone to blame other than their destructive ideas.

Ivan

October 15th, 2010
8:36 pm

Hey, Republicans, where is all the money coming from to fund your attack ads?

Do you even know?!?

Dossevi Trenou

October 15th, 2010
8:39 pm

Cynthia
Your analysis is unfortunately the most compelling I’ve read so far on the Obama presidency. However, I have a deep-seated conviction and belief in doing the right thing. Trying to compromising with the opposition in the face of this unprecedented crisis was indeed the right thing to do in the interest of this country. There has obviously been a heavy price to pay, as often the case with any honest path, in the short term. However, the long term will certainly vindicate this President and the approach he took: History will decide.

Dossevi Trenou

October 15th, 2010
8:41 pm

Your analysis is unfortunately the most compelling I’ve read so far on the Obama presidency. However, I have a deep-seated conviction and belief in doing the right thing. Trying to compromise with the opposition in the face of this unprecedented crisis was indeed the right thing to do in the interest of this country. There has obviously been a heavy price to pay, as often the case with any honest path, in the short term. However, the long term will certainly vindicate this President and the approach he took: History will decide.

LisaX

October 15th, 2010
8:42 pm

Actually, Obama bent over backward to reach out to Republicans. He kept Gates as Secretary of Defense. He appointed other Republicans. He sought out Republican ideas. The healthcare bill contains many Republican ideas. But it got him nothing with the ungrateful Republicans, who vote lockstep against everything. You can’t work with such people. They turn everything into dirty politics.

Jim Stagg

October 15th, 2010
8:43 pm

Congratulations, Cynthia. Your stupidity made the “Best of the Web” column on the WSJ today. Way to go, babe!

LisaX

October 15th, 2010
8:44 pm

Oh, you have to love Republicans . . .

The party of Hoover, McCarthy, Nixon, W, Sarah Palin . . . always a disaster waiting to happen.

Rick

October 15th, 2010
8:47 pm

Obama should just give up working with anyone.

Ronery . . . me so ronery

LisaX

October 15th, 2010
8:47 pm

WSJ, that rag owned by Rupert Murdoch? It’s just another extension of Faux News, so what do you expect but right-wing propaganda.

Murdoch, an Australian, has made a fortune by playing off the stupidity, fears, and prejudices of Americans. Wake up.

Ivan

October 15th, 2010
8:50 pm

It’s hilarious that Republicans would complain about “closed doors.” What did W & Cheney work behind all the time, when they planned all the lies for that grand folly, the Iraq War?

LisaX

October 15th, 2010
8:52 pm

Just so, Ivan. You can tell the difference between parties by their priorities. For the GOP, wars based on lies and tax cuts for Fat Cats. For Obama, healthcare for all American citizens and tax breaks for the middle class.

Tim Underwood

October 15th, 2010
8:54 pm

I have completely lost faith in the party that nominated Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Joe Miller, Ken Buck, and other extremists. If these people ever get in power, God help us.

Obama will never be able to work with them. They’re crazy.

Ivan

October 15th, 2010
8:57 pm

Yes, Obama certainly believed in bipartisanship. But the Republicans taught him better. Will the American public reward lies and obstructionism?

The Schaef

October 15th, 2010
8:59 pm

Barney Frank said that Fannie and Freddie were fine, and now admits that he just assumed his opponents had sinister motives. Harry Reid said the war was lost and the surge was producing no results, and now says the surge worked and he never said that. Obama campaigned on runaway deficits, then tripled them. Stimulus opponents said there were no such thing as “shovel-ready projects” and now Obama is saying he has learned that (a trillion dollars late). ObamaCare opponents said the expense would increase the deficit, and the CBO now notes there is no savings in the bill (and they weren’t even allowed to count the Doc Fix). ObamaCare opponents said costs would go up, and now premiums are going up 10-47% across the nation, and the Medicare actuary says some senior costs will rise also. Republicans brought three licensed physicians and the ranking member of the Budget Committee to the summit, made all these same points, and asked to start over and write a GOOD bill. Democrats brought Reid, Pelosi and Sibelius, Obama took half the speaking time for himself, then they passed their bill anyway, with no Republican input and no Republican votes.

Maybe the problem isn’t that Obama is looking for non-existent bipartisanship. Maybe the problem is that he makes a show of bipartisanship, ignores sound counsel like so many other Democrat leaders, and then tries to blame Republicans when all the things they said would happen come to pass.

steve

October 15th, 2010
9:00 pm

Is this woman serious? Talk about idol worship and living in denial.

Steve in SoCal

October 15th, 2010
9:00 pm

Remember Ms. Tucker: President Obama came in and said during one of the first meeting with republicans “I won.” So to imply that he “tried to hard or too much” to work with republicans is just pure fantasy.

He came from Chicago and was rated one of the top 5 most liberal senators. And you’re saying he tried too hard to work with republicans? Like, that really fits his M.O.? He gave 50+ speeches on healthcare. Called a joint session of congress to talk about it. Did a 30 minute infomercial about it. And now you’re saying he tried to hard to work with the republicans?

He has a 75 seat majority in the house. Fillibuster proof in the senate for ~14 months and the reason things stalled are becauase he tried to play nice with the republicans? Really?

The stimulus? Go back and look at the tapes. Obama, Biden and a slew of dems are on record as saying basically, “it’s about the right size” ‘there’s shovel ready projects” etc. If they didn’t want to put tax cuts in, they wouldn’t have. It was the blue dogs that wouldn’t have voted for it (along with republicans) that caused the president and his team to put tax cuts in. How else would Obama and his team now claim “we gave a tax cut to 95% of the american people.”

Let’s play a very simple game Ms. Tucker. Had the stimulus had 2/3 tax cuts and 1/3 ’stimuli” when passed with the unemployment rate at 7.7%, and then 18 months later the unemployment rate is 9.6%, has been at 9.5% for 14 consecutive months and the republicans came out and said “Hey, the stimulus worked and the economy is going in the right direction” what would your reply be?

I thought so. . . chirp . . .chirp. . . chirp go the crickets. Bottom line is this president didn’t focus on jobs because he thought that the normal cycle of business would have taken care of the economy by now. Normally it would have, but when you go around saying you want to raise taxes, spend like there’s no tomorrow, tell people they’ve made enough money, talk about raising the cost of doing business thru cap-n-tax, healthcare and more regulation and then 14 months later admit you didn’t know shovel ready jobs don’t exist (but have been part of government or on the end of government hand-outs almost your entir professional career) and claim that there are evil forces against you . . . but you can’t name them and then wonder why the economy is the way it is? It’s called leadership Ms. Tucker. It’s called taking responsibility. And that’s the problem with this president. He’s never had a job where he stuck around thru thick and thin and had to ansewer for his decisions. Annenburgh? so the test scores didn’t increase as anticipated. Obama was gone by then. State legislature of Illinios? near banKruptcy? Obama’s gone. Running up deficits under the Bush admin? Obama’s out of the senate. Now as president and having to stay somewhere longer than 2 years with the RESPONSIBILTY

steve

October 15th, 2010
9:05 pm

The liberal mind is a terrible place to be; replace responsibility with blame and lies. The facts matter not to the liberal; especially when they get in the way of the truth.

steve

October 15th, 2010
9:07 pm

Barack Obama; a Hollywood style, smoke and mirrors special effects fraud. Plain and simple.

Truchas

October 15th, 2010
9:19 pm

CT your head is filled with mush. You are a product of liberal academia and totally cluless. You and those who think as you do are the problem.

God help us

Stephen

October 15th, 2010
9:25 pm

Is this column a joke? Is it meant to be funny? This President has never sat down in good faith to be bipartisan. There was a bipartisan healthcare bill, written by a Democrat, Ron Wyden. Obama pretended that it did not exist. The health care bill stalled out over Democrats who wanted a pubic option and those who did not. The GOP had nothing to do with it. Furthermore, trying to peal off Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins to get them to favor a Democratic bill is not bipartisanship. It is tokenism using Republicans who are liberal enough to be moderate Democrats. This is the most partisan Congress and President in memory. They have down big things by themselves. There were not enough Republicans in Congress to stop them. This election must be over whether or not we the public approve of what the Democrats have done. It’s all the Republicans fault? Absurd.

StankFoot

October 15th, 2010
9:50 pm

Lawdy it be all crazy up in dis mug!

buck@gon

October 15th, 2010
10:06 pm

“Obama tried too hard to work with Republicans”

Cynthia,

Out here on the third rock from the sun, we like to present our news and editorial stories with headlines that don’t reveal the story’s content at first glance to be a laughable piece of hysterical nonsense written by a raving lunatic with a huge chip on her shoulder.

Welcome to planet Earth!

Is Obama from your world too?

Iggy1962

October 15th, 2010
10:16 pm

No Cynthia, you’ve got this one wrong. The President’s mistake is that he did not work with the Republicans at all. After campaigning on being able to work with congress on both sides of the aisle, he repeated scoffed at Republican attempts to work with him. Case in point: during the health care debate at the Capital, the President literally sneered when jokingly saying that he would consider the notion of eliminating frivolous law suits – no one was convinced that he would seriously consider any outside inputs.

Bob

October 15th, 2010
10:25 pm

I didn’t realize that bipartisanship was telling Republicans that they had to support and reach out to him, or else, because he won the election. Well Mr. Bipartisan, guess what!!!! The winds of change are now blowing in your direction.

Greg

October 15th, 2010
10:34 pm

The title to this piece is a joke…right? The President with majorities in the House and Senate has been able to push through everything he has wanted even in the face of vast public opposition (Govt Health Care). You can’t be serious to think he has wanted to work with the GOP. If he wanted to pull a couple of votes for health care from the Republican MINORITY it would not have been hard to compromise to get the RHINOs so he could claim “bipartisan support”.

“Obama didn’t take every possible opportunity to pin the economic mess on his predecessor” Puh-leez, Every time I turned on the news or read anything about his attempts at fixing the economy all I heard was how he inherited this mess. While we are at it let’s not forget that the banks were forced to make loans to unqualified persons by legislation passed by a Democratic controlled Congress (thank you Barney Frank).

I’ve just lost all respect for the Pulitzer Prize.

stitcher

October 15th, 2010
10:47 pm

hey cindy…nobama has the majorities..he doesnt need the republicans…why is this so hard to understand!!!!

Sinister Liberal

October 15th, 2010
10:50 pm

Enjoyed the article

jschmidt

October 15th, 2010
11:10 pm

I seem to recall Obama telling Republicans, “We won!”. THe implication is for the Republicans to cave. Well Republicans were elected by their constituents to follow the Rpeublican program and the Democrat have tried to paint them the party of no. When the Republicans take over the House, will they be meet by Democrats that will be glad to help them pass Republican legislation. I don’t think so. WIll the Democrats then be called the ‘Party of No’ for not caving into Republican control? THe Democrats will try to block any legislation by the Republicans. The Dems blocked Republicans from changing most of the legislation. It was all a Democrat game and now they have to suffer the consequences for overreaching and moving to a left wing program.

[...] she asserts the amusing theory that Obama tried too hard to work with Republicans. Here’s the link, just so you know that I didn’t make that [...]

Dana

October 15th, 2010
11:17 pm

This whole article is a lie. Obama Blames Bush. He Never truly attempted bi-partisanship. He’s a lie. Soon he will be a lame duck and soon WE taxpayers will be rid of the Great lie. The self anointed one will be put in purgatory. Reverend Wright will have his favorite cult follower back in the meeting.

Bairkus

October 15th, 2010
11:18 pm

For Pete’s sake, come off it, Ms Tucker. Obama never has done more than give paltry lip-service to the idea of Bi-Partisanship.
Look at his own voting record!! Open Your EYES!!! Your very own statement belies the real truth: “Still, Obama kept going back with proposals meant to lure a few Republican votes for his agenda.”

It is not possible to continue carrying the Obama Myth any farther – he still is not a Messiah.

Doug out West

October 15th, 2010
11:28 pm

Oh my gosh Ms. Tucker, are you inhaling ether?? The Obama Administration and the D’s completely ignored the Republicans and shut them out of the federal decisionmaking process for the last two years. And I say this as a former member of a previous Democratic Administration.