The Republicans Are Smiling, but They're Not Buying

The Obama stimulus plan was greeted with a rancor-free version of partisan rancor.
The Obama stimulus plan was greeted with a rancor-free version of partisan rancor. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
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By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

President Obama was a bit disoriented yesterday when he emerged from a chat with Republican senators at the Capitol.

After brief words with reporters, he stepped, perhaps reflexively, to board the senators' elevator before aides ushered him in a different direction. "I never know where I'm going anymore," he explained.

Understandably so: As he tries to make nice with GOP lawmakers, Obama is in unmapped territory.

As the president met with House Republicans yesterday in the Capitol basement, Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) got out his BlackBerry and started to Twitter. "President Obama is speaking to House Republicans right now on Democratic stimulus bill," he wrote on the social networking Web site. "Good salesman, bad product."

Flake, stopped in a basement corridor as he departed the room, expanded on his Twitter report. "He's reaching out, he's genuine about it," he said of the new president, but "it's like trying to sell a Ford Pinto."

Obama spent an hour with the House GOP, and lawmakers emerged saying very nice things about him. But would they vote for his stimulus plan?

"No, but he's a charming guy," said Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.).

"No," said Rep. Kevin Brady (Tex.), but it was a "very warm dialogue."

"Probably not," Rep. Louie Gohmert (Tex.) said with a grin that made clear his "no" vote is certain. But "he's truly a nice guy."

Forecasts call for no more than 12 Republicans to vote for Obama's stimulus plan today, and "it's closer to zero than 12," said Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), one of a dozen Republicans invited to meet with Obama staff chief Rahm Emanuel at the White House last night. Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.) chuckled when asked whether Obama had won his vote. Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.) laughed. Rep. Dan Burton (Ind.) guffawed.

Last week, Obama ushered in the post-partisan era. This week, it looks as if the post-post-partisan era is already upon us. "I don't expect 100 percent agreement from my Republican colleagues," the president said after his House GOP meeting.

"We might not even get 50 percent agreement," he amended two hours later, after his session with Republican senators.

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