In January, pretty much all of respectable Washington had a sense of where President Barack Obama’s second term was headed. His approval ratings were sky high. His liberalism was pure and untroubled by thoughts of post-partisanship. His second-term agenda of immigration reform, gun control, climate change, and tax reform was clear. He would roll over the opposition. The dawn of a liberal age—a permanent majority, perhaps—was at hand. Stinking Republicans? Obama didn’t need them.
The president, wrote Politico’s Glenn Thrush, had “a new mandate—achieving bipartisan results through force, not conciliation.” Obama was “armed with an approval rating in the 50s.” He had “decided the only way he can defeat hill Republicans is to muster public opinion against them.”
John Dickerson of Slate and CBS News wrote, “Obama’s gambit in 2009 was to build a new post-partisan consensus. That didn’t work.” The president would have to go around the Republicans because “they cannot be unchained by schmoozing.”
Thus Obama’s aggressive strategy: “The president who came into office speaking in lofty terms about bipartisanship and cooperation can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP.” The countdown to Republican destruction had begun.
And the countdown stopped on March 1, when Obama entered the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House and acknowledged that the automatic cuts to discretionary spending, also known as the “sequester,” would take effect. The administration had spent the previous weeks attempting to force the Republicans into accepting tax increases as part of a deal to delay or replace the sequester by hyping its devastating effects. Teachers would be fired, airport lines would extend for blocks, and illegal aliens would run rampant in the streets. Or so we were told.
The sequester has yet to cause tremendous panic and consternation anywhere but in the executive branch, the congressional Democratic caucus, and, needless to say, MSNBC. And suddenly those Republicans for whom the president had no use, the old out-of-touch white men who were on their way to the dustbin of history, became bizarrely relevant. On Wednesday Obama invited Republican senators, including his old nemesis John McCain, to dinner at the Jefferson Hotel. On Thursday, Paul Ryan lunched at the White House.
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