"Bipartisanship" is not the Holy Grail

Harry Truman in a "bipartisan" moment with Lauren Bacall, a staunch liberal Democrat. This is about as "bipartisan as Harry got."

Last week was exhilarating for Democrats and, judging by the international media, for people all over the planet who have suffered for nearly a decade from the misguided and often criminal policies of George Bush and his terribly inept administration.

The swearing in of Barack Obama and the departure of the Connecticut Cowboy from our public affairs was something long anticipated, and, after our long dark winter, as welcome as the return of springtime and birdsong, at least in these quarters.

The Republican smear machine however, wasted no time in cranking up to its full powers of bloviation. Their program of attacking nearly every move Obama made and every statement he uttered, began seconds after his swearing in and I'm sure will continue unabated in the immediate future. Here's hoping that they are afforded every opportunity to quibble and obstruct, to grouse and whine, as a minority party for decades to come.

The moaning and squawking over the slightly bobbled recitation of the oath of office, a gaffe that was meaningless and easily ignored by people who have something other than chowder between their ears, was, in Republican circles, fanned into a twenty four hour cause celebre by the fulminating heads of Fox Noise and soon picked up on the other "open all night," "all the news that fits," networks.

The storm so roiled the calm in our national teapot that Obama's advisers encouraged him to retake the oath, which he did in a private and sparsely attended ceremony in the White House a day later.


All seemed well with the republic until Glen Beck pointed out that Obama had not sworn the oath with his hand on a Bible," I checked" Beck chirped, "We have never had a president sworn into office without a Bible,"

Beck's research into the matter was apparently less than skin deep. Ali Frick at Think Progress quickly countered with this:

"Beck is simply wrong. As Slate recently reported, official records kept by the Architect of the Capitol show that Teddy Roosevelt did not use a Bible in 1901; and Lyndon Johnson is rumored to have used "a Catholic missal aboard Air Force One after Kennedy's assassination." According to his own letters, John Quincy Adams placed his hand on a constitutional law book rather than the Bible."

Beck's investigations didn't include the "actual Constitution" which clearly states that no religious test for public office shall be required, thereby making the Bible, or any other religious text, token, amulet or magic charm unnecessary. It seems that the "Constitution" so often quoted in Beck's parallel universe simply doesn't contain an Article six.

The constitution and strict adherence to the rule of law seemed much on the minds of Republicans this past week, a surprising fact after eight years of their support of a President who famously referred to the document as "just a goddamn piece of paper" and spent much of his two sad terms trampling it underfoot with nearly unanimous republican complicity.

The party that hocked the future of our great grand children to the Chinese, set the world aflame and proved itself completely incapable of anything resembling competent governance during its twelve years of majority now seeks to instruct the new president, who hasn't yet had time to sort out his new key ring, exactly how things ought to be run.

John Boehner in the House and his counterpart, Mitch McConnell, the replacement for Ted Stevens as the face of irascibility in the Senate, quickly assembled on deck a dozen or so other loose cannon to obstruct the disbursal of the next round of TARP funds and fight against Obama's stimulus package. Forget the fact that they tripped all over themselves to approve the bailout of banks and brokers under the recent stewardship of jolly King George.

Following their obscene treatment of American automakers and labor they are now delaying the approval of Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary because of her support for American Labor and, worse, her support of the "Employee Free Choice Act," which corporate America is spending vast fortunes to defeat and I assume  Republicans are opposed to out of something more tangible than conservative principle.

They are the same old Republican Party, prowling the mall like jackals or perched buzzard like on the fences waiting for any opportunity to transfer public wealth to the ruling class, any chance to create greater disadvantage for the working class.

The landscape that Republicans envision when they speak of "America" is one far different than that seen by the average Democrat. I for instance see no beauty in long lines of the unemployed waiting for a job at minimum wage or less. To a Republican that is an idyllic image, warming to the heart.

Harry Truman once said:

The Republicans believe that the power of government should be used first of all to help the rich and the privileged in the country. With them, property, wealth, comes first. The Democrats believe that the power of government should be used to give the common man more protection and a chance to make a living. With us the people come first.

In my opinion Obama would be wise to ride his mandate, to maintain the strong cyber link to the body politic and use it to pressure the Democratic majority in the direction it would travel naturally were it not for the corrupting influence of corporate money. I would urge our new President to lose some of his zeal for the grail of "bipartisanship" and simply take his case to the people, and, like an old fashioned Democrat, govern in their name.

Harry also said this:

"I don't like bipartisans. Whenever a fellow tells me he's bipartisan, I know that he's going to vote against me."

Bob Higgins
Worldwide Sawdust


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I didn't quite get that first paragraph--Harry Truman was also a Democrat. 

Eric L. Wattree

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everybody who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

is as bipartisan as he got.

Always have. Of course, in today's world, it would be some conservative starlet, like Britney, flashing her pantiless goods in the overly bi-partisan President's face from atop a baby grand.

Times change, I guess, but there's something about Bacall that roused the right with righteous vitriol, and yet she was always a perfect lady when she did it. Talk about class. Sexy without gaudiness or raunch. What a concept.

Man, I must be getting old...


We are living in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic of short-term thinking.—Jacques-Yves Cousteau

I think I agree with his discussion of the stimulus package, on Huff. Post. I guess I'm even less bi-partisan these days than Harry was. He makes the point that Obama has to worry about Democratic Blue Dog conservatives as well as Republicans. Here are some excerpts:

If you look at the details of the Obama recovery plan, however, it includes a lot of outlays that don't look like one-shots: laying more than 3,000 miles of electric transmission lines; installing 40 million "smart" utility meters to help reduce energy use; weatherizing 2 million homes and most federal buildings. Among the other infrastructure investments are improving security at 90 major ports and modernizing the nation's water system. These needs and others like them don't end after two years.

Sounds good to me, but he will face ideological qualms from the fiscal conservatives within his own party, as well as from most Republicans. So the bipartisan honeymoon is unlikely to last, and I'd say, good riddance. Obama's real challenge is to mobilize public opinion--not just to win general approval ratings but to make it very hard politically for anyone in either party to oppose his recovery program or to demand crippling budget cuts down the line as the quid pro quo. That's what leadership is all about.

It's show time. Call me out of date and ideological, but it's reassuring when President Obama reminds himself and his opponents that "I won."


"I would urge our new President to lose some of his zeal for the grail of "bipartisanship" and simply take his case to the people, and, like an old fashioned Democrat, govern in their name."

I'd like to extend that, with hope that the vision he reminded us would rule his Administration back when the progressives were yelling loudly about 'betrayal' should especially be brought to bear when it comes to investigations.

I wrote 9/11: Voices of Dissent to a Unanimous Bipartisan Consensus Report in the wake of the widely-swallowed placebo called the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission.

Some definitions from the pharmacy:

  • unanimous - adjective: 1) acting together as a single undiversified whole; 2) in complete agreement
  • consensus - noun: agreement in the judgment or opinion reached by a group as a whole; verb: settle by concession
  • compromise - noun: an accommodation in which both sides make concessions

I want no more whitewashed unanimous bipartisan consensus Final Reports. No ironing out of the disagreements. No reshaping conclusions until everyone agrees.

Rumsfeld got exactly what he asked for.

No more of that. Call the kettle black, identify a spade for what it is.

Look backwards with a harshly glaring bright light and strive for accountability, the only way to provide that forward-looking reforms can be taken seriously.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson