When it comes to bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill and, for that matter, elsewhere, it looks like were off to a bad start.
Honestly, I never expected the Republicans to get on board with bipartisanship. Not many of those who came in during former Speaker Newt Gingrichs (R-Ga.) 1994 revolution approached politics that way. Republicans elected since then have not tried very hard to change that mindset. Partisanship appeals to them, and it will be tough for Democrats to abandon their own core principles and the people who elected them just to appease a recalcitrant opposition.
Even with two consecutive elections that increased their majority and decimated the GOP, its naive for Democrats to believe that Republicans would go along to get along. Its just not in their DNA. Case in point: Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.
As President Barack Obama was talking to workers at a Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Ill., Gregg went before the television cameras to withdraw himself from consideration to be secretary of Commerce. If this were a sincere act of conscience, I cant fault the man. If he had submitted his name for consideration for the Cabinet position with the best of intentions, eager to seek common ground for the common good, and truly found himself thwarted by irresolvable conflicts, I cant criticize his decision.
But Im beginning to think this might have been a calculated decision designed to embarrass the president at a time when many of Greggs Senate colleagues were denouncing him in private for not taking a stand on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
If thats the case, then Gregg should be ashamed of himself. He should be ashamed that instead of rolling up his sleeves and helping his president during this time of national crisis, he has chosen to return to his Senate foxhole, where he can safely whine and growl and throw stones.
As Momma used to tell me, youre either part of the solution or youre part of the problem, and Gregg has chosen the latter. He chose partisanship over playing the role of statesman and problem-solver.
Democrats are looking on in dismay at the way in which the Republicans have charted their path out of the political wilderness. First, as newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele warned, Republicans want those who wish to obstruct to be ready to get knocked over. Then, newly elected National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) boastfully cited the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan as the new model for Republican behavior in the House of Representatives.
Its as though the GOP leadership is competing to be Americas Next Top Roadblock to Progress. Members of the loyal opposition, with all due respect, thats one award you dont want to win.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.