Sunday, January 31, 2010

An Editorial: Bipartisanship, Filibustering & the Ghosts of Thurmond and Helms

In calling for a bipartisan spirit on Capitol Hill--issued in his State of the Union address and later to a House Republican retreat in Baltimore--President Obama is a voice crying in the wilderness.

Surely he knows by now that the spirits of Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms are what drives today's Republican Party. Yes, the Senate's champion filibuster and its "No" master. Thurmond, the ol' Dixiecrat seg from South Carolina who led the charge to change the South from solid Democrat to solid Republican, and Helms, the raging North Carolina ex-TV exec who earned the moniker "Senator No" for opposing practically everything that a South American dictator wouldn't want for his country.

Obama's trying to be above it all, a leader of all the people--that's what presidents are supposed to do--but he's also got to practice realpolitik. He needs a dose of manhandling Lyndon Baines Johnson to deal with Republicans, none of whom have any desire or intention to work with him or any Democrat for that matter. Why would they do anything that might remotely score a victory for the White House?

That's why Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's claim today on Face the Nation was disingenuous at best. He had the temerity to say that Republicans are willing to work with Democrats as long as they can find common ground on the issues. Barbour knows this is untrue, host Bob Schieffer knows this, and so does anyone else with any feel for American politics today.

This is an election year, and Republicans sense they might have a shot at regaining a lot of lost ground in Congress. They want Obama to fail, regardless of what that means to the nation. They don't care. That's the reality. Rush Limbaugh was the first to admit it, and he essentially is the leader of the Republican Party today.

What Democrats this past year should have done--here employing my 20-20 hindsight vision--is push as many bills to the Senate floor--health care, Employee Free Choice Act, jobs bills, etc.--that they could muster together. Let the Republicans filibuster, and let the nation see it. Let the nation see firsthand their self-serving obstructionism, that they're willing to let the nation go to hell in a hand basket if that's what it takes to score points for their side.

Thurmond, still the Senate's filibustering record-holder, and Helms are smiling from their graves, enjoying their one true, lasting legacy: the modern-day Republican Party.

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