January 30, 2010

Obama at the House Republican Retreat

One of my favorite bloggers, Ann Althouse, put up a post on yesterday's interaction between Obama and the House Republicans at their retreat. I'm reposting here my intial comments which I originally left at her site:

I agree with the general assertion that Obama didn't really say much yesterday that he didn't say in his SOTU speech. Nor was his tone any better. He repeatedly blamed the Republicans for his and his own party's inability to move his agenda forward. Shocker! Then he ludicrously repeated over and over again that it was the responsibility of Republicans to come to his side of the aisle.

The biggest takeaway in terms of actual news - rather than just spin - is that Obama was forced to admit repeatedly that the Democratic talking point of Republicans having "no ideas" or being the "Party of No" is, and always has been, a big fat lie. Republicans got him on the record about him having received copies of their legislation over the past year. "I've read that...", "I've seen that...", etc.

Since at least half of the Democratic electoral strategy going into the fall was attempting to paint Republicans as nothing more than obstructionists with no ideas of their own, Obama absolutely shattered his own party's plans for what he thinks was a short-term political gain. Yet another example of getting outmaneuvered in the long run.

There is a huge difference between "you haven't proposed any ideas," and "you've proposed lots of things with which I don't agree." To that end, Republicans wound up getting the better end of that argument as well. Obama was forced to swallow all his own talking points about Republicans. Go back and review Obama's many speeches about how we should pass his agenda because, hey, it's the only option available to fix a broken system. Turns out, he's been lying all along and yesterday he was forced to admit that too.

He backed Pelosi and Hoyer into a corner in the way they manage debates in the House. Every time Pelosi/Hoyer shuts Republicans out of the debate, Republicans will be able to march up to the cameras and point out how they're not living up to the bipartisanship House Republicans have with Obama. That sets up a very nasty inter-necine fight between the House leadership and Obama going forward.

Obama seems to forget he's not the entirety of the Democratic Party. He needs Pelosi/Hoyer to move his agenda. While he didn't explicitly throw them under the bus yesterday, he might as well have. He set himself up as the good guy, and the Republican caucus got to look like good guys for inviting him to their retreat and broadcasting their interactions. Guess who was missing? Guess who the Republicans immediately issued invitations to have the same kind of conversatino with? That's right. Pelosi and Hoyer. Now guess who will never show up to do that.

Now who looks like the ones who are getting in the way of accomplishing things on a bipartisan basis? That's right. Obama just set up the dynamic to make the Democratic House the bad guys...How many additional seats do you think this costs them in the fall?