In his state of the union address, and his opening remarks in a meeting with House Republicans the same week, President Obama was inspiring and optimistic, once again reaching across the aisle in the hopes of getting the opposition to meet him halfway. After months of frustrating obstructionism from the GOP, you’d think he’d have learned his lesson. There is nothing coming from that side of the aisle. Nothing. And what the American people need now is true leadership—not conciliation.
Robert Kuttner sees not just Barack Obama’s presidency but the country as a whole teetering on the brink. In this op-ed for the Boston Globe, Kuttner has a few words of advice for our embattled president.
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S State of the Union address was a reminder of why so many Americans invested so much hope in this man – and why he often makes us want to scream. There it all was again – the sheer decency, the intelligence, the plea for an appreciation of complexity, the call to higher purpose combined with feeble particulars, and the signature pursuit of impossible common ground.
“What the American people hope,” he said, “what they deserve – is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our politics.”
But this just isn’t in the cards, no matter how much the president wishes it. The Republican response to his high-mindedness was the same tactic the GOP has been successfully deploying all year: total obstruction.
Obama made a strategic mistake in framing the problem as “the numbing weight of our politics,” as if the problem were “politics” in general. It isn’t. The problem is a president with one set of remedies to a dire economy downturn, and Republicans who simply won’t play, even when he meets them more than halfway.
Vermont’s independent senator Bernie Sanders put it well. “In order to dance, you need a dance partner, and there ain’t no dance partner out there.”
When Obama boasted of all the tax cuts he had delivered – the preferred Republican remedy for everything – there were cheers from the Democratic side of the aisle, while Republicans sat in stony silence. “I thought I’d get some applause on that one,” he teased, looking over at the Republican seats.