Diary

Bipartisanship Is Dead, Say Top Democrats

President Barack Obama, who campaigned on the promise of changing the rigidly-partisan climate in Washington, has resigned from the prospect of bipartisan comprehensive health care reform, according to top White House aides.

Declaring war on Republicans critical of the president’s proposal, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel offers a far less rosy picture of Obama’s success in fostering bipartisanship than the image the Obama campaign created last November.

“The Republican leadership has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day,” Emanuel said.

Democratic leaders say Republican obstructionism has forced their go-it-alone hand, but evidence exists to the contrary – namely the fact that off-message members of Congress have attested to the fact that Congressional Democrats were told, in no uncertain terms, to avoid bipartisan negations with Republicans.

Writing at The Huffington Post, Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper said: “And the White House released a statement praising this bipartisan leadership. In the House of Representatives, meanwhile, we are explicitly told not to work with Republicans.”

Like Obama in the White House and their colleagues in the lower chamber, Senate Democrats seem less than keen on bipartisan negotiations. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), in particular, expressed his aversion to such a bipartisan coalition of the willing when the bill was still in its infant stages.

“My goal is to write a good bill. My goal is not bipartisanship,” Dodd admitted in June.

Unfortunately, Dodd failed on both counts. And rather than concede that they failed in writing a good bill, frustrated Congressional Democrats are intent on characterizing Republicans as reflexively partisan, condemning them for putting the health care bill on life support.

Tense negotiations require courage to compromise and, if necessary, buck party leadership, but Obama possesses neither a genuine interest in bipartisanship nor the courage to challenge Congressional Democrats to pass health care reform. The fact that Obama, whose record on bipartisan compromise is virtually non-existent, has given up on negotiations should come as no surprise. What should be disturbing, however, is how coolly Obama deliberately misconstrues the situation.

“It’s a shame that the White House and their liberal allies are now trying re-write history,” said John Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. “From the beginning of this debate, Republicans have tried to work with the President and Democrats on real health care reform that reduces cost and expands access for the American people. Instead, Democrats played the old Washington game, bribing and log-rolling special interests to produce a plan that will cost at least a trillion dollars and just won’t work.”

Absent the ability to filibuster such a proposal, Republicans are not the enemies of Obama’s health care reform legislation – public opinion is. But if the President intends to pass health care legislation without Republican cooperation, he would do well to at least mediate the intraparty dispute over the public option currently stifling Democratic cooperation in this process.

The collapse of bipartisan health care reform negotiations rests squarely on the shoulders of the President. Obama has all the while maintained that his hawk’s eye for bipartisanship and his knack for finding common ground between competing interests would put an end to Washington’s partisan divide, but here we are, still faced with more Democratic doublespeak and hardball politicking. And there, health care reform lie dead.

Bipartisanship, Obama hardly knew ye. Rest in peace.

Cross-posted at Skepticians.com.

Follow James on Twitter.