Bush and the Bipartisan Aesthetic

There was an op-ed piece in this Sunday’s New York Times that I found pretty incisive. The author was assessing what he perceived to be a dissonance between President Bush’s rhetorical embrace of bipartisanship and the actual tenor of his actions thus far in the administration. One particular passage caught my eye, and I figured I’d throw it out here for debate.

(emphasis mine)

This appraisal seems accurate to me. More than that, I think it’s an extremely astute (and calculated) political maneuver on the part of Republican leadership, especially post-Clinton and post-Gingrich. By invoking unity, Bush and others are able to claim the moral high ground every time they’re met with policy disagreement. In effect–if this analysis is apt–they literally reconfigure the field of debate, as the charge they can then levy as proof of their superiority need only be, “You’re not willing to consider my idea,” rather than, “Your idea isn’t as good as mine.”


well, the ‘spirit’ only extends so far.

Seems that the Senate parlimentarian (who “served as parliamentarian when Republicans controlled the Senate from 1981 to 1987 and was reappointed when Republicans again moved into the majority in 1995”, and his job is to “advises the presiding officer on Senate rules and procedures”) has just been fired.

a reason for this, per one unidentified aide is


No doubt the NY Times will eventually run a sensible Sunday op-ed article, but this isn’t it.

Bush has no choice but to compromise on policy, because of the pubbies’ thin Congressional margins, and he has done so. E.g.,

– Bush’s tax cut is only about 75% of what he had proposed throughout the campaign, even though the 10-year budget surplus had risen by $2 or $3 trillion since then. I bet that at least 1/3 to 1/2 of House and Senate Democrats vote for the final tax cut bill.

– Bush compromised on education by more-or-less dropping vouchers.

– He has, perhaps, compromised on the environmnet by leaving many of Clinton’s midnight executive orders in place.

– His Social Security reform committee has an equal number of Reps and Dems. It’s being criticized by Gebhart and Daschle as “not bi-partisan,” although their real complaint may be that they aren’t controlling it.

This is some kind of new political wrinkle? Unfortunately, Republicans can’t be given credit for an innovative master strategy.

If memory serves, the G.O.P. took a thrashing repeatedly during the Clinton years, over its “divisive” behavior. This included everything from the Lewinsky/impeachment affair to “shutting down the government” in '95 in a squabble over spending. Clinton was cast as a caring man who had to deal with a bunch of quarreling, partisan Republicans. Evidently the GOPs have learned there’s value in preaching bipartisan consensus, especially when it allows them to label Dems as being divisive merely to seek revenge over the '00 election.

The Democratic ambivalence over whether to rain fire and brimstone on the GOPs or make nice, has been beautifully expressed by Demo party chairman and fundraiser extraordinaire Terry McAuliffe. In an interview with David Jackson of the Dallas Morning News published today, McAuliffe talks about the need to display anger, in order to win back Congress and the White House. “It’s anger overall that we won that election - they stole that election. But listen, we’ve got to get over that.”

Oddly enough, there have been complaints about Bush’s bipartisanism" in two very different places, of late. The New York Times (and especially E.J. Dioone) have been screaming that George Bush is pushing a far-right agenda, and that the Democrats have been WAY too nice, WAY too accommodating, and have let him have his way on everything.

Meanwhile, speaking for the right, Paul Gigot said the exact same thing… in reverse. He says that the Democrats are getting everything they want, and that Bush is too nice, too determined to be bipartisan, and is rolling over and laying dead at every turn.

So… at LEAST one of these arguments has to be wrong. Question is, which side is surrendering its principles, in the name of “bipartisanship”?

I’m not at all convinced that EITHER side is doing so.