The Futility of Bipartisanship
BY RICHARD C. GROSS
President Joe Biden should know that he isn’t facing his father’s far more moderate Republican Party, the one he dealt with as a Senate Democrat for 36 years.
Many of today’s do-nothing Republicans pretend they believe in the tooth fairy, sex trafficking Democrats running pedophile rings and beholden to Satan and nearly every other conspiracy and horror story that’s swimming in the internet sewer.
Biden at the same time has been charging full speed ahead since even before he sat down at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, looking and acting all presidential all of the time, not always following in the footsteps of his former leader, President Barack Obama.
For example, it didn’t take him long to order a strike against an Iranian missile battery in Syria that was said to have attacked an American outpost in Iraq. Obama would have debated it with himself for days.
Biden has proven himself a decisive man of action from the get-go, pumping American wartime know-how to get vaccines into the upper arms of people as swiftly as possible, including brokering a deal to get Merck to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. That puts more of the coronavirus cure out there more rapidly.
More than two million vaccine jabs are being administered every day. And Biden has said all adults should get the shots by the end of May.
And, unlike stubborn Republicans, he knows how to compromise. He gave in on lowering household eligibility for the $1,400 checks contained in the House-passed $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package to ensure moderate Democrats would vote for the expensive but very necessary legislation.
So he needs the Republicans to go along with his ambitious agenda?
The president should abandon his nice guy quest for bipartisanship and play hardball with the Republicans the way they screwed with Obama, including their refusal to even hold a hearing for Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court. The Republicans aren’t the Golden Fleece, that Greek mythological symbol of authority; we the people are.
Republicans don’t seem to care that the new deficit-bending bill is extremely popular among their constituents out in the hinterlands as well as with Democrats. Fully 10.1 million Americans are jobless, the Labor Department reports.
There’s no dealing with most of the Republicans at this stage of their devolution; some of them definitely qualify for the Darwin Award, that outstanding prize given to those for downgrading the gene pool. Only seven in the Senate and 10 in the House voted to impeach Biden’s predecessor.
It’s one thing to be conservative; another point of view certainly is welcome. But to endorse conspiracy theories? To continue to follow a twice-impeached former president, an ignorant demagogue who plays us and the rest of the world like a would-be dictator? To what end?
I know it’s all for votes. I get it. One cannot ignore 74.2 million people who voted Republican in the last election, perhaps a good chunk of them followers of the lying con man who caters only in himself.
But politicians should reach higher. They must lead, not follow. It is their obligation in the profession they chose to teach voters the right moral, ethical path, not succumb to the lure of votes promised by those who would cheer on the 800 extremist thugs who invaded the symbol of American democracy.
That shouldn’t be who we are, not with our history of trying to seek “a more perfect union” and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These words are embedded in our founding and should be everyone’s goals.
Here’s an example of what I mean when it comes to honorable behavior:
When the then-Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was running against Obama in October 2008, a woman at a town hall meeting in Lakeville, Minn., told him, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, um, he’s an Arab.”
McCain took the microphone from her and replied, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”
That’s the conduct of a real man.
And this is an example of what is not a class act:
Biden is trying to rush the stimulus package through the Senate because some of the provisions in the previous one, such as unemployment insurance, will expire this month. The president wants to extend it through August.
But there’s wholesale Republican opposition, of course, even though some of their own constituents could benefit from the relief.
So what does hardliner Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin announce? That he wants Senate clerks to read aloud the full 682-page bill before debate on it begins so as to slow it down to show he’s against it. He estimated it would take 10 hours. They started reading it Thursday.
“I don’t want to sound like a leftist, but I’m going to resist,” he told a Wisconsin talk radio host.
And it’s with senators like this with whom Biden thinks he can work out bipartisan agreements?
Richard C. Gross, a correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor of United Press International, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.