He certainly isn't the first one to say that. But it reinforces a narrative that I think is too grounded in this particular moment, while ignoring how we got here. So I'm going to ask you to fly up high with me to take a look at the forest instead of just the tree in front of us.
I've said it so often that regular readers here are probably bored with hearing it. But after the Bush/Cheney debacle, Republicans had a choice to make...is it time to re-think our approach or double-down on the stoopid?
They had to make that choice on the heels of Barack Obama being elected President...the man who catapulted onto the national scene by saying that "we are not a red America and a blue America, but the United States of America." In other words, they knew the door was open to tackle the mess Bush/Cheney had left behind in a bi-partisan manner.
So what choice did they make?
In hindsight, we all know the answer to that one. But how many of us knew it at the time? According to Michael Grunwald, VP Joe Biden knew.
Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.Notice that Biden was made aware of the "total obstruction" strategy during the transition. He says he didn't tell the President who his sources were, but you can bet $10,000 of Romney's money that he told him what the plan was.
The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.
So, can we please dispense with the idea that President Obama was "naive" going into this?
But then, why would he spend so much time during those first two years trying to woo support from Republicans? The answer is two-fold.
First of all, he needed their votes on things like the stimulus. Remember that bill was passed less than a month after his inauguration. Time was of the essence given the free-fall the economy was in and Democrats were still 2 shy of the 60-vote majority the Republicans were requiring to get anything through the Senate (Specter hadn't switched parties and Franken was in the midst of a re-count).
But the second reason is perhaps more pertinent to the point I want to make. To get there, we have to imagine what would have happened if President Obama had done what so many of the left wanted him to do...come out fighting an ideological battle. For example, what if he had actually proposed single-payer or Medicare-for-all health care reform (let's for a moment leave aside that he didn't campaign on that)?
Under that scenario the Republicans wouldn't have been forced to go to the extreme of denouncing a health care reform policy they themselves had designed (and that their future presidential nominee had implemented as Governor).
This happened over and over again...Republicans - in their commitment to total obstruction - were forced to abandon even their own policies and move farther and farther to the extremes in order to put distance between themselves and President Obama.
That's how we got here folks - to the place where Romney is touting himself as a "severe conservative" and being forced to pick a running mate who wants to dismantle the entire New Deal.
So screw the idea of "luck." We're here because conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy worked.
One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.Yep, the Republicans have nothing...and it shows.
P.S. I just have to add that relegating the accomplishments of one of the most intelligent Presidents this nation has ever had to "luck" or calling him "naive" have always sounded racist alarm bells in my head. I'm not suggesting that has been anyone's point. But it seems obvious to me that when we are tempted to come to those kinds of conclusions, we'd best dig a little deeper. This man is anything BUT lucky and/or naive.