The Campaign Spot

BO-INO: Bipartisan Outreach In Name Only

The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt features an examination of the Toomey-Manchin proposal on background checks, news about Terry McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive company, an intriguing quote from the White House, and then this . . .

Obama’s Outreach to Republicans, for the Cameras Only

Wednesday night, President Obama dined with Republicans.

This latest round of mealtime diplomacy — which will take place in the White House’s Old Family Dining Room, rather than the Jefferson Hotel — will feature lawmakers ranging from moderate Maine Sen. Susan Collins to conservative John Boozman (Ark.). Other attendees include GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), and John Thune (S.D.).

You’ll recall that Obama did almost no outreach to Republicans in his first term.

If there were ever a Republican for President Obama to work with, it was Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. She was one of just three Republicans in the entire Congress to vote for his economic stimulus plan in 2009 and even tried to work with him on health care, but in an interview with ABC’s Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl, Snowe makes a remarkable revelation: She hasn’t had a face-to-face meeting with President Obama in nearly two years.

Now, if you’re a Democratic President looking to build bipartisan coalitions, isn’t Olympia Snowe the first place you start?

Of course, you’ll also recall some unnamed White House staffer who said that all of the recent outreach to Republicans was just window-dressing to get the media off his case; he, and apparently his colleagues and perhaps the president believed there was no practical use to actually meeting and eating with legislators in the opposing party.

“This is a joke. We’re wasting the president’s time and ours,” complained a senior White House official who was promised anonymity so he could speak frankly. “I hope you all (in the media) are happy because we’re doing it for you.”

So is the outreach “real” or for the cameras? Well, when Paul Ryan came to NR’s offices in Washington yesterday, he offered a nugget that appears to shed some light. Our Andrew Stiles wrote up that portion of the conversation:

Representative Paul Ryan hasn’t heard from President Obama since their lunch meeting in early March, the House budget committee chairman told reporters on Wednesday.

“Not that I know of,” Ryan said when asked if the president had made any effort to follow up on their meeting, which he noted was “the first time we ever had a conversation” since Obama took office. “I don’t really know him very well.”

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