Last week, Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.), a leading lieutenant to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), complained that President Obama should do more to make congressional Republicans happy.
"President Obama has an unbelievable opportunity to be a transformational president — that is, to bring the country together," Roskam said. "Or he can devolve into zero-sum-game politics, where he wins and other people lose."
On "Meet the Press" yesterday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) made a similar argument.
For those who can't watch clips online, Gingrich, making his ninth "Meet the Press" appearance of 2012, argued:
"This president has a chance as he did in '09 to come in and say, 'I'm going to sit down and work with you. We're going to be bipartisan, we're going to put the country first,' or he has a chance to do what he did in '09, which is say, 'I'm going to write a stimulus package with only Democrats and ram it through unread.' He can continue down the road he's on right now. He guarantees a permanent war because everybody on the right at every level sooner or later is going to get sick of it."
Just to be clear, the former House Speaker wasn't kidding. He seemed to genuinely believe what he was saying.
In Gingrich's version of reality, like Roskam's, it's Obama who's a fierce partisan, unwilling to compromise with people with whom he disagrees.
I can't say with confidence how many Americans actually believe such nonsense, but it's remarkable to hear the perspective spoken aloud. For four years, congressional Republicans have refused to work with the Obama White House on anything. GOP leaders have freely admitted that made a deliberate decision never to compromise or work constructively with the president, even when he proposed Republican ideas.
On practically every issue, Obama reached out to GOP officials, pleading with them to work with him in good faith, and in literally every instance, they refused, instead embracing a scorched-earth strategy in which defeating the president was their sole priority. This began literally the same Obama was inaugurated.
The result has been unprecedented obstructionism and the most toxic political atmosphere since Gingrich led an impeachment crusade against President Clinton.
And yet, despite these past four years, according to Gingrich, there will be a "permanent war" between the parties unless Obama does even more to make Republicans happy. Why? Because GOP policymakers are "sick of" how mean the president is to them.
It's like peeking into an alternate universe.