A blister is the swelling of the skin under which a bubble of liquid festers as the result of an infection or injury. In a recent issue of Time magazine, the President of the United States revealed he views Washington, D.C. as suffering from a “blister” that will only be healed after it is “popped” in the coming election. In the president’s metaphor, the “blister” is the swollen tensions between Democrats and Republicans, and the infection is the spirit of partisanship that has possessed the Republicans since he came into office. Through surrogates and media pundits, we are reminded regularly that Republicans “from the beginning” have, in some historically unprecedented way, refused to cooperate with the President on anything.
This mantra is repeated so often that it would be easy to mistake it for being true.
But it’s unlikely that liberals would be eager to take the word of a conservative Republican for this, so if they are to be convinced, it must be by someone they respect and admire; someone who possesses their loyalty and whose authority is without question.
That someone is Barack Obama.
While it’s true that Republicans have opposed some of the president’s agenda, they have not, as is often recited, opposed the president every step of the way. On issues where they found common ground with the president, they supported him. When the president addressed the GOP House Issues conference on January 29, 2010 the president himself pointed this out.
The president encouraged House Republicans, “And I think your constituents would want to know that despite the fact it doesn’t get a lot of attention, you and I have actually worked together on a number of occasions.” President Obama cited “broad support” for his efforts in Afghanistan and against Al Qaeda. He hailed “that same spirit of bipartisanship that made it possible for me to sign a defense contracting reform bill….” as well as their unified support on matters relating to the nation’s veterans.
President Obama didn’t stop there. He pointed to areas in which he had found support among Republicans on domestic policy: “Some of you also joined Democrats in supporting a Credit Card Bill of Rights and in extending unemployment compensation to Americans who are out of work. Some of you joined us in stopping tobacco companies from targeting kids, expanding opportunities for young people to serve our country, and helping responsible homeowners stay in their homes.”
Agree or disagree with those Republicans who sided with the President on these issues, but the picture Obama paints is clear. The Republicans have not been a monolithic wall of opposition. They did not engage in a blanket refusal to work with the president.
On November 30, 2011, after the House Republican Issues Conference and after the 2010 midterm elections, the president again talked about the spirit of cooperation shown by Republicans. After meeting with the Republicans who were fresh off a historic victory, President Obama said, “I just want to say I thought it was a productive meeting. I thought that people came to it with a spirit of trying to work together. And I think it’s a good start as we move forward.”
What this proves is not that Republicans sided with Obama on everything brought forward in his agenda, but that Republican opposition wasn’t uniform, universal, or blind. It was not some kind of hysterical tantrum or mean-spirited power play. Republicans sided with the President where they could agree and against him when they could not.
Now even liberals should be able to agree on this. After all, it’s Obama who is saying it.
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