The Senate reached a deal last night on the stimulus bill; apparently three Republicans, Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins signed on – not exactly a bipartisan effort. Charles M. Blow’s op-ed in this morning’s NY Times offers a blow by blow account of how Obama’s “cocktails and cookies outreach” hasn’t worked:
It took just two weeks for Washington’s Kumbaya experiment in bipartisan civility to explode in turgid rants, finger-pointing and re-entrenchment.
Tuesday night, Obama did a speed-dating circuit with television anchors at the White House, and repeatedly dismissed Republican objections to the stimulus bill as trifling. He told Anderson Cooper on CNN that if you add up all the programs that have been criticized, the total “amounts to less than one percent of the total package.” (That’s still quite a bit of money to those of us who don’t have the power to print it.) He also wrote an editorial in which he scolded “misguided criticisms.”
This must have been the glove slap to the face for Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The next day, Graham went ballistic on the Senate floor. “This bill stinks. The process that’s led to this bill stinks.” He continued: “If this is the new way of doing business, if this is the change we all can believe in, America’s best days are behind her.” Later on Fox News, Graham said Obama has been AWOL on this bill, and then he went even further: “The president has not led. He has tried to campaign. The campaign is over. We have got to govern.” Ouch.
(I guess Obama’s cocktails and cookies legislative outreach programs didn’t work.)
Obama shot back at a Virginia meeting of House Democrats — the very lawmakers who had saddled the package with party favors and shipped it off to the hostile Senate. He accused the Republicans of having “false theories of the past” and “phony arguments,” of playing “petty politics” and “gamesmanship” and just plain “nit-picking.” He seemed hostile and snarky. It wasn’t a good look for a man who promised to change the tone in Washington.
The public has noticed the tonal shift, or lack thereof. In a Gallup poll released Wednesday, a slightly larger percentage of Americans said that since Obama was elected, the level of civility between Democrats and Republicans in Washington had gotten worse, not better. And, as one would expect, nearly twice as many Republicans as Democrats thought that the tone had gotten worse. (Half all of respondents said that it had stayed the same.)