He never before was a compromiser. He avoided opportunities to compromise when he was in the Senate. He was never known for working with those senators who came together to craft bipartisan deals. As president he figured he was so transformational he didn't need no stinkin' compromises.
He didn't compromise on the stimulus. He refused to even listen to conservative ideas on health care and instead encouraged the Democrats to cram it through Congress and even forgo the opportunity to amend the bill and take out errors and problems that were in the bill because then they had lost a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate after Scott Brown's election. So this pose as a compromiser is, as Rich Lowry points out a new guise for Obama.
It’s easy to pinpoint the moment when Pres. Barack Obama became a tireless advocate of compromise — when he no longer had the power to force whatever he wanted through Congress.But now reality has caught up with Obama. The public doesn't like what he's done and they registered their disapproval in the 2010 elections and in the low poll numbers he's facing today. And so now, suddenly, Obama is trying to transform himself into the champion of compromise. It's phony and all his calumnies on Republicans refusing to put the country first are just his desperate flailing around to help his reelection chances but not his real persona.
Then, he suddenly switched his pitch from “Hope and Change” to “Gee, I Hope We Can Work Something Out.”
Obama the Compromiser depends on short memories. The Jefferson-Jackson Day speech that fueled his rise in the 2008 Iowa caucuses was a ringing statement of principle and implicit rejection of compromise. He condemned “triangulation,” the dastardly word associated with Pres. Bill Clinton’s work with a Republican Congress in the 1990s.
Many of the same commentators who hailed Obama’s voice of righteous purity in 2008 now praise his call for splitting differences in 2011. To them, he’s equally thoughtful and brave whether he’s passionately extolling “principle” and “conviction,” or doggedly insisting that progress is possible only through “common ground and compromise.” By definition, whatever is Obama’s current tack deserves the support of all right-minded people.
But surely his ecstatic fans from 2008 would have fainted less often had they known that three years into his presidency, Obama would be dragging himself around the Midwest, pleading with Republicans to agree with him on creating an infrastructure bank.
President Obama doesn’t bring much credibility to his new position as the nation’s lecturer in Compromise 101. One of his signature phrases upon taking office was his killer rejoinder to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor in an early White House meeting: “Elections have consequences and, Eric, I won.” Cantor had occasioned this rebuke by passing around copies of the Republican economic plan. Clearly, compromise wasn’t the order of the day.
A clutch of Obama’s supporters still believes he compromised his way through his first two years because he didn’t nationalize the banks, institute a single-payer health-care system or pass a stimulus package north of $1 trillion. None of this represented bending to the will of Republicans, but to the dictates of economic and political reality. The president got the leftmost plausible program he could through Congress. On his own terms, it was a transformational agenda, not a middle ground worked out between Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner.
Without the country’s reaction against the high-handed methods used to pass this highly ideological program, Obama wouldn’t even bother to hector Republicans. His pivot to compromise is a confession of weakness, both of reduced power in Washington and a highly tenuous standing with the public. It is nothing but a lifeline.