The Corner

Obama: ‘I anticipate that getting worse’

In the New York Times, Peter Baker predicts that President Obama may try to triangulate, Clinton-style, should Republicans make major gains:

It would be bad form for the president to anticipate an election result before it happens, but clearly Obama hopes that just as Clinton recovered from his party’s midterm shellacking in 1994 to win re-election two years later, so can he. There was something odd in hearing Obama invoke Clinton. Two years ago, Obama scorned the 42nd president, deriding the small-ball politics and triangulation maneuvers and comparing him unfavorably with Ronald Reagan. Running against Clinton’s wife, Obama was the anti-Clinton. Now he hopes, in a way, to be the second coming of Bill Clinton. Because, in the end, it’s better than being Jimmy Carter.

On Saturday, however, at a Democratic fundraiser in Boston, the president seemed to shrug off any hopes for bipartisanship. “I don’t anticipate that getting better next year,” he said. “I anticipate that getting worse.”

John (Kerry) is absolutely right when he says that the Republicans made a very calculated decision — and it was — look, I give them credit. It was a smart tactical decision.  When I was sworn in with a lot of high spirits, they had two ways to go.  They could have cooperated with us, in which case everybody would have ownership in solving problems but if we were successful then people would still — would probably give the Democrats’ majority more credit.  And if we weren’t successful, they’d share the blame.

So what they instead said was, we’ll just let them try it out, and we’re not going to lift a finger to help, and because they figured we had made such a mess it’s going to take them a really long time to clean it up.

But I served in the Senate and it is true that the kind of obstructionism that we’ve seen is unprecedented, by every measure.  I mean, we can’t get Deputy Treasury Secretaries appointed at a time of crisis when we need Deputy Treasury Secretaries.  We can’t get district court judges called up for a vote.  Even when they’re voted out of the committee unanimously on a bipartisan basis, we cannot overcome — we can’t just call those judges up for a vote, a clean vote.  We end up having to go through a cloture motion, and they will filibuster, make us wait for days, weeks, figuring out how to schedule it.  And then when we finally actually get a vote, it turns out it will be 90 to nothing.  They were just doing it just to play games, just to stall.  Then that’s on the House side — or on the Senate side.  I mean, on the House side, we’ve got similar problems.

So I don’t anticipate that getting better next year.  I anticipate that getting worse.  And that is why it is going to be absolutely critical that we do everything we can in the next three weeks to make sure that we have a Senate that cares about moving the country’s business and is thinking about the next generation and not just the next election; that is operating on the basis of some conviction and not cynicism.

Last month, Rep. Paul Ryan told us that an improved Obama-GOP relationship is up to the president:

If Republicans win back the House, will they reach out in good faith to President Obama? National Review Online recently posed that question to Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee.

“Absolutely,” Ryan says. “But these days, it seems like every time you reach your hand out, you get burned . . . from what I can tell, President Obama has little interest in trying to triangulate like Bill Clinton or Dick Morris.” The president’s ideology, he laments, often gets in the way of negotiations. “Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan,” Ryan says. “At the expense of the American idea, he has doubled down on Chicago-style politics and class warfare, pitting one group against the other.”

UPDATE: Sen. John Cornyn picked up on Ryan’s theme earlier today on Fox News Sunday:

A leading Republican senator said Sunday that chances for cooperation in the next Congress will depend on U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who is heading the GOP Senate campaign, said on “Fox News Sunday,” “Well, I think it depends on the president.

“If the president’s going to maintain his ideological stance and try to jam things through to support the left in America, when we’re still a center-right country, then we’re going to — we’re going to say no,” he said.

“But if he’s willing to work with us, as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 elections to pass things like welfare reform, trade agreements and the like, we’ll certainly work with him.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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