One of the big issues that Barack Obama campaigned on was a change of tone in Washington politics. He promised a to make a real effort at bipartisanship, to eliminate some of the most blatantly profiteering and money-grubbing aspects of politics, and to try to “disagree without being disagreeable.”
But, then came the reality of being President…
Or so you might wonder. I’m on the fence on this one. When it comes to legislation, there are screams of FOUL! on both sides: with the stimulus bill, the GOP claims Pelosi rammed it through with 8500 earmarks, but Obama claims that over 1/3 of the bill included measures written by GOP members and yet they got no votes at all; with health care, the Obama team claims to have made genuine overtures of bipartisanship only to be slapped in the face by an orchestrated effort of obstruction, but the GOP claims that the entire bill was written behind closed doors and it was so long and convoluted that they couldn’t even read it.
And then you have these grand speeches before joint sessions of congress. Here, with all the pomp and circumstance, eyes and cameras, you would think that civility would be a given. Yet, last year Obama so incensed members of the GOP with claims about health care, that Mr. Joe Wilson (no, the other one), shouted “You lie!” Then, this year, in the SOTU, Obama scolds the Supreme Court (a maneuver almost without precedent) and provokes Justice Alito’s slightly more subdued version of Joe Wilson.
What is going on?!
Is Obama holding the olive branch in one hand but brandishing the sword in the other? Are our governmental representatives systematically incapable of acting civilized, working together, and speaking the truth?
I’m not sure. President Obama is now promising regular meetings with key members of both parties, and monthly events with GOP members. Perhaps he’s serious about this stuff.
What’s clear is that no matter how big a majority one party has in congress, we can’t get anything worthwhile done without bipartisanship. Let’s hope that the tone can change and that Obama is serious about changing it.