Sunday, August 23, 2009

Begala and bipartisanship

One of the recurring characters who popped up when I tried to clean up categories on my blog was Paul Begala. He turned up in two posts with similar themes: A Begala canard and Birth of a lie. Shortly after I noticed this pattern, Begala popped up again on CNN (I think it was) talking about the myth of the reasonable, rational Republican. That seems to be his patter these days; he wrote about it for The Daily Beast:

In the four committees that have passed versions of health-care reform, the Democrats have accepted a total of 183 GOP amendments. But that generosity has yet to earn them a single Republican vote in single committee. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Bupkes.

Like the myth of the unicorn, or Sasquatch, or a humble political pundit, the myth of the reasonable, responsible, rational Republican persists. High-minded media elites and goody-goody Democrats want to believe in it; they need to believe in it, and in the face of all evidence, they persist in that belief.

Perhaps the Republicans are negotiating in bad faith. Perhaps not. But in thinking about bad faith, it’s instructive to look at this Slate article by John Dickerson. Written in mid-July and entitled “Obama’s partisan attempt to change the meaning of bipartisanship”, it’s worth reading for its overall review of the Administration’s attempt to redefine “bipartisan” to mean something other then “at least a few people from the other party voted for it”. What I found most interesting, though, was this paragraph:

In The Audacity of Hope, then-Sen. Obama wrote: "The majority party can begin every negotiation by asking for 100 percent of what it wants, go on to concede 10 percent, and then accuse any member of the minority party who fails to support the 'compromise' of being 'obstructionist.' For the minority party in such circumstances, 'bipartisanship' comes to mean getting chronically steamrolled, although individual senators may enjoy certain political rewards by consistently going along with the majority and hence gaining a reputation for being 'moderate' or 'centrist.' "

I haven’t read the book so I can’t speak as to context but that quote does put a whole new spin on what the Administration means when it insists Democrats are honestly seeking a bipartisan bill but the Republicans are being “obstructionist”.

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