It’s hard to blame President Obama for at least making an effort. For four years, he took a variety of steps – some social, some formal, some professional – to establish relationships with congressional Republicans. The outreach didn’t amount to much.
But it appears the president, either out of necessity or stubbornness, will continue his newly revamped charm offensive, including a trip to Capitol Hill for another round of budget talks. It’s clearly intended as a major gesture on Obama’s part – presidents usually summon lawmakers to the White House, not head to Capitol Hill for meetings on lawmakers’ turf.
Time will tell, obviously, whether the efforts pay dividends, but the New York Times has an interesting report today on the ineffectiveness of recent outreach, including a great anecdote I hadn’t heard before.
For all the attention to President Obama’s new campaign of outreach to Republicans, it was four months ago – on the eve of bipartisan budget talks – that he secretly invited five of them to the White House for a movie screening with the stars of “Lincoln,” the film about that president’s courtship of Congress to pass a significant measure.
For all the pundits who complain bitterly that Obama hasn’t done enough to schmooze with lawmakers, doesn’t an anecdote like this suggest the problem is not entirely the president’s fault? Are we to believe that all five – invited in secret so they wouldn’t have to take heat from Fox or the GOP base – were all washing their hair that night?
On a more substantive note, the piece also included this key piece of information:
What spurred Mr. Obama to reach out to rank-and-file Republicans with a flurry of phone calls, meals and now Capitol visits were the recent announcements by their leaders – Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – that they will no longer negotiate with Mr. Obama on budget policy as long as he keeps demanding more tax revenues as the condition for Democrats’ support of reduced spending on Medicare and other entitlement programs.
This is important. Congressional Republican leaders are now saying they won’t even talk to the president unless Obama agrees – before any meetings even take place – to give them what they want. In other words, when the White House announces that all efforts at deficit reduction in the coming years will include literally nothing but 100% spending cuts, then GOP leaders will be prepared to negotiate with the president.
Please, Beltway pundits, remind me again how all the president has to do to resolve political paralysis is “lead” and offer good-faith compromises.