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Obstruction, and How the Press Helped Punch the GOP's Midterm Ticket

By       Message Eric Boehlert       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   4 comments

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Reprinted from Huffington Post

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In the days after the midterm elections, the New York Times has been a cornucopia of campaign commentary. Lots of attention is being paid to the issue of gridlock, which has defined Washington, D.C., since President Obama was first inaugurated.

Lamenting America's "broken politics," Times columnist Nicholas Kristof opted for the both-sides-are-to-blame model, suggesting that, "Critics are right that [Obama] should try harder to schmooze with legislators." Across from Kristof on the Times opinion page, Republican pollster Frank Luntz urged Obama to find a way to create "common-sense solutions" with his Republican counterparts. (This, despite the fac t that Luntz in 2009 helped Republicans craft their trademark strategy of obstructing Obama at every turn.)

And the same day, while reviewing Chuck Todd's new book on Obama, which stressed that the president "wanted to soar above partisanship" though his two terms will likely "be remembered as a nadir of partisan relations," the Times book critic stressed Obama's "reluctance to reach out to Congress and members of both parties to engage in the sort of forceful horse trading (like Lyndon B. Johnson's) and dogged retail politics (like Bill Clinton's) that might have helped forge more legislative deals and build public consensus."

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So after six years of radical, blanketed reticence from the GOP, we're still repeatedly reading in the New York Times that while Republicans have put up road blocks, if Obama would just try harder, Republicans might cooperate with him. You can almost hear the frustration seeping through the pages of the Times: "What is wrong with this guy? Bipartisanship is so simple. Republicans say they want to work with the White House, so why doesn't Obama just do it?"

Indeed, cooperation is simple if you purposefully ignore reality -- if you downplay the fact the Republican Party is acting in a way that defies all historic norms. If you adopt that fantasy version of Beltway politics today (i.e., the GOP is filled with honest brokers just waiting to work with the White House), then it's easy to dissect the problems, and it's easy to file both-sides-are-to-blame columns that urge bipartisan cooperation.

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