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Does Obama Know the War He's in? Republicans Aren't Interested in Compromise

Obama and the Democrats have to give up their obsession with bipartisanship and take up the challenge of fighting for truth and the public’s interest.

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This pandering to the “birthers” also has become regular fare at Tea Party events. At a recent Tea Party rally in South Carolina, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado, asked, “why don't we just send him back” to Kenya?

False Equivalence

Yet, in his commencement speech on Saturday, Obama laid the blame for the political incivility on both extremes about equally, much as news outlets like CNN pretend that Democrats are as much at fault for the lack of bipartisanship as the Republicans.

Creating these false equivalencies, however, holds little promise of causing the Right and the Republicans give up on their winning strategy of making the political process scream, until the American people grow tired of the ugliness and put the Republicans back in charge.

The only way the Right and the Republicans will back off their approach is if it fails over an extended period of time, if it's rejected by the American voters. And the only way to make it fail would be for Democrats to come up with a political/media counter-strategy to defeat it.

Pleading for civility won’t get Limbaugh and Beck to tamp down their rhetoric, nor will it cause Republican leaders to abandon their congressional obstructionism. After all, their strongest argument for a Republican Congress in November will be that Obama and the Democrats haven’t delivered.

Perhaps Obama does understand this political dynamic and his commencement address was only an attempt to position himself with independents who say they despise partisanship.

But there is a price to be paid for chastising your own Democratic “base” for its supposed intolerance – calling on them to read editorials in the Wall Street Journal and to “learn what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes.”

For sure, the Tea Party crowd isn’t going to take advice from Obama to absorb a liberal perspective. Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation immediately accused Obama of hypocrisy and called the Tea Partiers the real victims.

“We’re seeing a lot of incivility from the other side, people referring to us as tea-baggers and racists, people who lie about us,” Phillips said.

The only ones likely to heed what Obama says are his own supporters. Thus, they might be inclined to retreat into greater passivity.

So, instead of girding for the political conflict that is ahead – and recognizing that he is facing an implacable enemy – Obama is talking like Neville Chamberlain at Munich, hoping against hope that peace might be at hand.

Wishful Thinking

This wishful thinking puts Obama in the ranks of most Democrats from the past four decades during which they more often than not shied away from confronting Republican wrongdoing, even to the point of helping Republicans miswrite recent history.

My book, Secrecy & Privilege, opens with a scene in spring 1994 when a guest at a White House social event asks President Clinton why his administration didn’t pursue unresolved scandals of the Reagan-Bush-41 era, such as the Iraqgate secret support for Saddam Hussein’s regime and clandestine arms shipments to the Islamic government of Iran.

Clinton responded to the question from documentary filmmaker Stuart Sender by saying, in effect, that those historical questions had to take a back seat to Clinton’s domestic agenda and his desire for greater bipartisanship.

Clinton “didn’t feel that it was a good idea to pursue these investigations because he was going to have to work with these people,” Sender told me in an interview. “He was going to try to work with these guys, compromise, build working relationships.”

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