It's not exactly a secret that President Obama and congressional Republicans fail to see eye to eye, but for several years, a variety of Beltway pundits have argued that the president is to blame. Obama hasn't forged personal relationships with his GOP foes, the argument goes, which makes cooperation impossible.
If only the president "schmoozed" more, the pundits have said, he'd have more legislative successes.
I hope these same observers take note of an interesting piece U.S. News published yesterday, highlighting remarks former House Speaker John Boehner made in Florida earlier this month. The Ohio Republican said the political climate in D.C. is so toxic, he sometimes felt the need to "sneak into the White House to see the president."
When Obama played golf with Boehner a few years ago, he was criticized for only playing with him once. But it turns out that wasn't his fault. Boehner told the Naples group they had a "nice" game but he declined a couple of subsequent invitations in order to avoid irritating his "band of renegades" (his description of some of his fellow Republicans).
The exchange with Obama went like this, according to Boehner: "You think it would be too much trouble if we played golf again?" "Yes, Mr. President, I think it would be." To the audience, he added, "You just can't believe the grief I got."
Think about that. The president, trying to cultivate a relationship with the then-House leader, played a round of golf, which couldn't be repeated because House Republicans were outraged.
It's one thing for GOP lawmakers to resist policy compromises with a White House they hold in contempt, but these guys didn't even want Boehner socializing with Obama.
To be sure, part of the problem in a case like this relates to Boehner's weakness: a stronger Speaker would have simply told his members it's just golf and they shouldn't freak out with such ease.
But there's a larger point to the story that the pro-schmooze pundits should pause to appreciate.