By now most Americans would agree the ascendancy of Barack Obama to President was due in large part to his promise of obliterating the petty Washington-politics-as-usual mentality when it comes to governing. In 2000 when running for president, George W. Bush trotted out a nifty campaign slogan: "compassionate conservatism." He didn't coin the term; it was first used in a speech given in 1979 by right-wing presidential adviser Doug Wead. But Bush owned it in the 2000 election in an effort to pander to moderate voters. Compassionate conservatism, he argued, would be his guiding principle should he win the presidency. (He probably didn't realize when he used that term he was implying conservatism at its core is inherently uncompassionate. After all, if conservatism was truly compassionate he wouldn't have needed a qualifier.) He also boasted that when he was governor of Texas he worked across party lines, though the state's elected Democrats are often considerably more conservative than Northeastern Republicans.
For myriad reasons, the American people bought Bush's blatant lies; even the most ardent Bush supporters now readily admit that he neither practiced compassionate conservatism nor did he ever have any intent of working "across party lines." His presidential administration was perhaps the most partisan and blatantly conservative of any in American history.
So what does this have to do with President Obama?
Most Americans want at least some sort of harmony among government entities (especially within the intelligence communities). The only way America moves—forward or backward—is when legislation and agendas are advanced. Now historically speaking, the advancement of legislation and agendas can have detrimental effects on society (see particularly Ronald Reagan's fuck-the-poor decade and Newt Gingrich's Contract with on America). But nonetheless agendas were advanced, and many politicians followed the cliché: "Let the chips fall where they may." Pass legislation that you believe in and fuck the voters come November. For all of Gingrich's repulsiveness, he pushed through his agenda—the people's will be damned. And yeah, the people didn't forget; they loathed him, and he was eventually driven out of office.
President Obama, on the other hand, has spent an entire year desperately attempting to win over the hearts and minds of the Republican establishment. While Obama could have rammed his will down the throats of the American people by going overboard in issuing executive orders, he only passed 39 executive orders in his first year in office. By contrast George W. Bush passed 54 executive orders.
Obama's entire first year in office can be summed up this way: Pandering, placating, and pussy-footing around the Republican Party. He offered his hand to the Republicans, and they gave him a firm backhand. Look at the health care reform bill. For God's sake, it's a giveaway to Republicans: It has no public option, it allows for interstate insurance shopping, and if passed will add millions of customers to the oligarchical insurance companies. How much more Republican-friendly could the bill be? If you ask the Republicans they'd say, "The only good health care reform bill is a dead health care reform bill." (Poor choice of words deliberate.)
Clearly, Obama has a distaste for political hardball. By his actions, he doesn't want to become simply a liberal version of George W. Bush, ramming liberal policies down the throats of Congress—much to my chagrin. He needs to rethink that.
Here's what I'd say to Obama, and I believe many of his advisers are saying these sorts of things as well:
You've given it your best shot, you've tried numerous times to talk with the Republicans, to negotiate, to meet them halfway on every single matter before the American people. But they hate you for many reasons. It's time you break kneecaps. It's time to destroy the Republican Party. They don't deserve a seat at the table when all they want to do is score political points by being the Party of No.
It's looking like Obama may be getting the message. Just yesterday he threatened to bypass Republican foot-dragging on his stalled nominations by using the recess-appointment process—a procedure Bush 43 used on numerous occasions (with nefarious results—remember John Bolton).
As expected, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was shown weeping on the Senate floor he said the potential recess appointments would undermine the President's efforts to reach out to Republicans. Seriously!? According to McConnell "reaching out to Republicans" means giving them everything they ask for, all the time.
Elections have consequences. After Bush's narrow reelection in 2004, he had the temerity to address the press and say, "I earned political capital, and now I intend to spend it." Why can't Barack Obama, whose victory was far more impressive and more decisive, say the same thing?