Much of this “analysis” minimizes the extensive role of political campaign tactics, not only in the presidency and Congress, but in wide swaths of corporate and non-profit communications as well. The “permanent campaign” is nothing new: Sydney Blumenthal first wrote a book with that title in 1982, and there have been several since with exactly the same title!
But the more serious flaw in the argument that Obama is “all politics all the time” is that it ignores the current calendar and history. We are six months from election day; did anyone think it might be different? Seriously? And what about the first few years of Obama's presidency? Who was taking the hard political road then? I seem to remember the Republican leader of the Senate say that the job of the Republican Congress was to deny Barack Obama a second term. Honeymoon for Obama? More like he checked into the Bates Motel.
Too much of the press and commentary continues to treat Obama as more guilty of excessive partisanship than Republicans, or at least as guilty. I don't think that's reality. And, I promise this will be the last time I quote these gentlemen, but both are canny, experienced observers of the political scene with no axe to grind. Again, I quote Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann:
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.
‘Both sides do it’ or ‘There is plenty of blame to go around’ are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach."
A couple of days ago, I blogged on these men's conclusions which I not only agree with, but find extraordinarily important to understand why Washington has become hyper-partisan and gridlocked. I said at the time I hoped reporters and commentators might take it to heart. That seems naïve.