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Hullabaloo


Sunday, January 30, 2011

 
The Bipartisanship Trap

by digby


After the State of the Union address I mentioned the Frank Luntz "focus group" in which the Republicans and Democrats differed sharply on the need for bipartisanship. Dave Neiwert caught the clip and kindly transcribed it for us. Here's the pertinent passage:

Sean, I want to go to one clip we did, because Obama talked a lot about bipartisanship, and yet the Republicans didn't respond too favorably to that. The red line is Republicans, green line is Democrats. Watch how high the green declines and red falls when Barack Obama appeals directly to partisanship.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party, bigger than politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: So the question is, what is it about this appeal to bipartisanship that those of you on the Republican side don't like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe it.

LUNTZ: Explain it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said that before. When he first got into office he was going to be the president to change everything, come across the aisle. It never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is phony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is bipartisan? Is it if you agree with me? I mean, we've got two sides here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to use one of those curse words we can't use. The Republicans didn't. The first thing he said was I'm not going to work with him. I'm not going to work with you. That's like throwing down the gauntlet.

LUNTZ: Hold on one second. Sean, you've got a question?

HANNITY: Yes, I do. Somebody said it. He said all of these things before. He said it last year, during the campaign. And this whole campaign it was only a couple months ago when he was calling Republicans enemies. They can sit in the back. For two years Republicans weren't invited to the table.

So in that sense are we just reading words from a teleprompter or has he lost the ability because he has two years experience for people to belief him?

LUNTZ: So here's the question, is it politics or principle that you heard tonight? Who would say politics, raise your hand. Who would say principle? You said principle, tell me why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This president is doing the best he can at this point. He's trying to be in the center. He's not being -- it is not that he's trying to cause problems with the economy. He's doing the best job he can do. I think he's doing a great job. He's brought unemployment down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Experience, experience, and we are not making any progress whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2000 he said Bush is not the real president. And then they are yelling at him for the same thing. Everyone is saying the same things again, it's 10 years later, the same thing, but we are worse off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two years of railroading legislation in Washington, rolling over Republicans, accusing them of being cynical. Now saying let's come to the table, have a drink and work together. It's nonsense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like getting romantic talk from Tiger Woods. Are you going to put your trust in him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got a lot done this lame duck session. When they did come together and pass bipartisan support, things got an accomplished. You have people probably to the far right who don't want to see any time of compromise. When you have compromise, things get done, you get bills passed.

LUNTZ: Again, what is wrong with compromise? I want to understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to have some compromise. Give a little on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's nothing wrong with compromise. People have to talk about what is good for each side and take the good together. Not everybody is going to be happy.

LUNTZ: Is Barack Obama sincere about bipartisanship?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: One at a time. Is Barack Obama sincere?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he is. And I think it should be the American people what they want. We are all-American, not Democrat, not Republican.

LUNTZ: I get it. Sean, the State of the Union is supposed to bring people together. It is supposed to appeal to all Americans, not just the Americans from your political party. I don't think that has happened tonight. They are just as divided now as they were an hour and a half ago. Back to you.


This is the previously described "bipartisanship trap" in action--- Republicans obstruct and then blame the president for failing to fulfill his promise of bipartisan leadership. When you govern as someone who will change process and extol it as higher purpose than policy and principle, you give the other side a huge weapon with which to beat you. Democrats seem to really love the bipartisan promise, but I'm guessing that a good part of that is simply following the president's lead. They like it when he's "successful" which means lots of good press and signing ceremonies and they trust him to look out for their interests. So the Republicans have all the leverage --- and the President has every incentive to go along with them.

Here's the whole creepy focus group (which I fully acknowledge was rigged. But it doesn't change the upshot.)




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