Obama, the press and the bipartisan trap, cont'd

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

This Wall Street Journal article today plays dumb on a rather epic scale regarding the GOP's almost universal refusal to support any initiative coming out of the White House.

The piece, which surveys the political landscape in the wake of Scott Brown's win, actually provides helpful background by noting that during the previous year Democrats have enjoyed larger margins in the U.S. senate than any party since right after Watergate. The Journal notes that, "recent presidents managed to pass sweeping bills with smaller majorities or even when their party was in the minority."

So what gives with Obama, the Journal article seems to ask. And that's where the playing dumb always begins. Because the Beltway press just refuses to report and comment candidly on what's been unfolding for the last 13 months.

From the Journal [emphasis added]:

But straight party-line votes are a relatively recent phenomenon in the Senate, historians say; interparty coalitions were long the norm.

In the 1960s, Democrats held sizeable super-majorities, culminating in 64 seats in 1968. But that included a deeply conservative faction of Southern Democrats who often voted with conservative Republicans, and bills often passed with bipartisan support and opposition.

Now, however, the majority party has to contend with a routine threat of a filibuster from the minority. "It's a relatively new story that it has become acceptable to filibuster everything in sight," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal Washington think tank.

Here's the word the Journal, like most Beltway outlets, steadfastly refuses to use when describing today's party line votes of no from the GOP: "unprecedented," which, of course, is the accurate term. Because we've simply never seen, in modern American history, a minority party that has decided to proudly oppose everything from the White House.

In the past, if a party had tried that, especially after a new president won an electoral landslide victory in November the way Obama did in 2008, that strategy would have been portrayed in the press as a radical form of obstructionism, and as being out of touch with mainstream politics. But today, the press pretends it's no big deal, like it's normal, and actually blames the White House, as reporters collectively scratch their heads trying to figure out why Obama can't secure GOP votes. Because gee, GOP leaders say they want to work with Democrats, so why won't Dems make it work?

The press plays dumb about the unprecedented obstructionism and then voilà! it's deemed "acceptable to filibuster everything in sight."

in 2009, the GOP adopted a risky and radical political strategy, but the press declined to describe it as either, which has only emboldened the GOP. (i.e. There's no political downside.) Instead, the press continues to pretend that what uber-partisan Republicans are doing it's normal, and then pins the blame on Obama for having failed to build a bipartisan coalition.

It's kind of like a trap, no?

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