early and often

After Gregg, Is Bi-partisanship Dead?

President Obama’s nomination of Republican senator Judd Gregg to be his Commerce Secretary was perhaps the starkest illustration to date of his pledge to embrace members of the opposition party. Gregg was the third Republican Obama chose for his Cabinet, but was really the first to come from a truly contrasting ideological viewpoint (Defense Secretary Gates is more nonpartisan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is a Republican but harbors a powerful independent streak). Now Gregg is gone, claiming that the differences between Obama and him were simply too vast to overcome, and that he couldn’t remain true to his own beliefs while working to carry out Obama’s platform. Add to Gregg’s withdrawal the unexpectedly partisan passage of the stimulus package, and it’s clear Obama’s bi-partisan outreach is already facing some major roadblocks less than one month into his term.

• Michael Scherer says Gregg’s line that he would “not be able to be 100 percent on the team” was perhaps “the most blunt statement of the challenge Obama faces in moving beyond the partisan and ideological divisions that have long defined national politics.” [Time]

• Jennifer Rubin says the “country clearly was looking for a less partisan tone and more competency in governance,” but that President Obama showed “excessive partisan fury” by “taking the Census oversight away from Commerce and putting it in the White House.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Joe Klein thinks “Obama should now understand that the Republicans are not reliable partners — at least, not for the moment.” He should appoint only Democrats to “significant domestic policy positions,” because “reaching across the aisle to someone like Senator Gregg gives the opposition too much credibility and leverage.” [Swampland/Time]

• Anne E. Kornblut and Michael D. Shear report that senior officials insist “they are still on course to change the tone in Washington,” but some aides “acknowledged that it is now clear that Obama has not been rewarded for reaching across the aisle, and they said he feels no imperative to replace Gregg with another Republican.” [WP]

• Felix Salmon believes “[i]t’s increasingly looking as though bipartisanship is one of those ideals which just isn’t going to work — that’s a shame, and a big problem. Because without bipartisanship, you can’t really ever have fiscal balance.” [Market Movers/Portfolio]

• Chris Cillizza says Gregg’s withdrawal “is clearly a setback for Obama and the cause of bipartisanship in Washington more generally,” as it will “harden partisans of both sides in their entrenched positions.” [Fix/WP]

• Andrew Sullivan claims that it’s clear the GOP’s “open intent is to do all they can, however they can, to sabotage the new administration (and the economy to boot).” [Atlantic]

• Matthew Cooper notes that Obama was caught by surprise by the announcement, and wonders “what the president will think about his outstretched hand after its [sic] been slapped like this.” [Talking Points Memo DC]

• Michael Tomasky refuses to “join the chorus now singing the anti-post-partisan blues at full volume.” Instead, “Obama should keep with the bipartisanship where possible.” Obama will get the benefit of the doubt on this episode (“hey, he tried to reach out, give him credit”), and should “stay on the moral high ground on partisanship.” [Guardian UK]

• Larry Sabato advises Obama to “abandon aggressive bipartisanship.He “deserves great credit for reaching out to Republicans in Cabinet appointments, frequent consultation and some substantive compromise on the stimulus bill,” but “pleasantries should never be exchanged at the cost of an electoral mandate.” [WP]

• The Washington Post editorial board hopes this episode does “not discourage Mr. Obama from seeking bipartisan cooperation. Maybe he didn’t sufficiently think through the merits of handing a key economic position to someone with a radically different philosophy. But he’s right that some of the hard things he wants to accomplish can’t be done without Republican help.” [WP]

• Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t think Obama can win Republican allies “simply by inviting them over for drinks.” Bipartisanship “will be achieved by being right. If the stimulus works, I’m betting that Obama will find himself with a lot more GOP allies in Congress.” [Atlantic]

After Gregg, Is Bi-partisanship Dead?