Dan K. Thomasson: The president apparently has decided that Republicans are irrelevant if not downright obsolete and it is best to ignore them, especially those in Congress.
The president apparently has decided that Republicans are irrelevant if not downright obsolete and it is best to ignore them, especially those in Congress. While Barack Obama may have understandable reason to feel that way given the GOP's solid opposition to much of his agenda, is it wise for him to utterly abandon any real attempt at bipartisanship?
That appears to be what he has done by bypassing the Senate and installing during the Easter recess 15 appointees including a union lawyer who is opposed by every Republican member. All 41 of the Senate's GOP minority had just signed a letter to the president asking him not to name the lawyer, Craig Becker, to the National Labor Relations Board.
Obama's response to the letter and the hold up of his nominees was a bit more than just a flexing of presidential muscle following his health care reform victory. It was almost an in your face rebuke of the two party system with a decided touch of kingly arrogance tossed in for good measure.
"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees," the president said in language sure to increase the animosity level. "But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis."
In other words, only Republicans harbor ignoble political reasons for their opposition to his initiatives. He on the other hand has no such motivation for his action, having sublimated those baser instincts for the "interest of the people..."
What a fine kettle of fish this all is -- a president who now sees no need to even pay lip service to bipartisanship and a disingenuous Republican minority that professes to want it but really doesn't. It is fair to note here that by this time in his presidency George W. Bush had made the very same number of recess appointments as Obama and that nearly every chief executive has used the device to overcome Senate intransigence in clearing nominees.
For those whose sympathies lie with the GOP, it is equally as correct to point out that during his abbreviated Senate career Obama expressed his own anger at Bush's naming a stalled, controversial John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations during a congressional recess. At that time the future president said recess appointments lacked credibility. But that was before he began to breathe the non-political atmosphere of the palace (excuse me) White House.
The appointment, which allows Becker to hold the job through 2011, was particularly rancorous given the fact that the former AFL-CIO lawyer had little or no chance of winning approval even with the large Democratic majority. While the NLRB is non-functional because of vacancies, Becker apparently carries too much anti-business baggage even though he has pledged to abide strictly by the law in making decisions. Ho hum. How often have we heard similar pledges made by nominees?
Had this hardening of the White House attitude not come so quickly following the health care victory and in such a harsh tone, it might not have been regarded by Republicans as an obscene gesture toward them by a president who now seems to believe he can rub their faces in the ground at will. But Obama clearly is feeling a new sense of entitlement. While not citing just the Senate in his remarks, he specifically blamed "Republicans in the Senate" as the culprits despite the fact that some of those opposing his nominees were Democrats.
What all this portends for the summer is pretty clear -- a pre-election period that is an exacerbation of the horrendous incivility that makes this city more and more a war zone. Don't expect much more. Republicans are determined to take their opposition to health care reform to the voters backed up by new polls showing that a majority of Americans are still against it. For his part Obama seems in full campaign mode stumping the country selling his landmark achievement as a victory over evil, crossing back and forth over the Potomac without taking a bridge.