A month ago today, the Wall Street Journal reported on the collapse of the fiscal talks, and included some behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the hostilities between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. According to the piece, Obama “told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn’t reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.”
We now know, of course, that didn’t happen. Not only was a fiscal agreement reached on Jan. 1, but the word “Republican” did not appear in the president’s second inaugural.
That said, Obama nevertheless presented an ambitious and progressive vision, which is entirely incompatible with a radicalized Republican approach to governance. It doesn’t come as too big a surprise, then, that some GOP lawmakers weren’t especially pleased with what they heard.
“I would have liked to have seen some outreach,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential race. “This is the eighth [inauguration] that I’ve been to and always there’s been a portion of the speech where [the president says] ‘I reach out my hand because we need to work together.’ That wasn’t in this speech.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of leadership, said the speech was “mostly 30,000-foot stuff” that did not extend any olive branches to the GOP.
“It did seem that he wasn’t doing the kind of outreach that he needs to do if he wants to get things accomplished in a second term,” Thune said. “We’ll see how it’s received.”
So, let me get this straight. Republicans spent Obama’s first term on a scorched-earth campaign, hoping to destroy his presidency and nearly everything he proposed. GOP leaders met privately exactly four years ago yesterday to plot their comeback by obstructing the president wherever possible, and refusing to compromise with Obama on literally anything, even when he embraced Republican ideas – and then they executed that plot without hesitation or shame.
After Obama received another endorsement from the American electorate, members of the shrinking Senate minority heard the president offer a robust defense of his governing vision, and their first reaction is … it lacked “outreach” to the other side?
In fairness, I should note that other Republicans were more gracious and appreciated the president’s frequent references to working together.
“I do come away with hope, as long as from the bully pulpit, he speaks the same way in the days ahead as he did today,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.). […]
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said that the White House would need to reach out to Republicans in Congress if the challenges of the debt and deficit were actually going to get addressed.
“The part I liked is when he emphasized working together – that’s what we need,” Hoeven said. […]
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the longest-serving GOP senator, said there were certainly things he differed with in the speech, but that overall he found a positive message. “It was a together agenda as far as I can see,” Hatch said.