JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 12, 2010
I haven't checked in on Fred Barnes' wildly partisan alternate universe in a while. The latest development there is that President Obama is incredibly stubborn and refuses to compromise on anything:
Obama has talked about compromise, but has neither sought nor produced a single one.
Obama has succumbed to the temptation of large majorities. The lopsided Democratic margins—59-41 in the Senate, 254-177 (four vacancies) in the House—allowed him to win approval of his health care plan without making a single meaningful concession to Republicans. And he’s pursuing a partisan, no-compromise strategy with his remaining initiatives this year.
Wow. The health care law, in addition to compromising away the public plan (which Barnes has apparently never heard of), was based in its very structure on extensive bipartisan negotiations in the Senate. The stimulus was compromised by hundreds of billions of dollars, and consisted of nearly 40% tax cuts. Financial regulation is currently being shaped by extensive bipartisan negotiations. (To be sure, Obama began by daring Republicans to oppose the bill, but he's since welcomed compromise.) And Obama selected Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court over more liberal alternatives largely because she enjoyed significant GOP support.
Barnes, of course, spent the Bush years taking dictation from Karl Rove's office, and lauding Bush's ultra-partisan strategy. Now he's a believer in compromise. Such a believer that his new model is Henry Clay:
I go for honorable compromise whenever it can be made. Life itself is but a compromise between death and life, the struggle continuing throughout our whole existence. . . . All legislation, all government, all society, is formed upon the principle of mutual concession, politeness, comity, courtesy; upon these, everything is based.”
Those are not the words of President Obama, though he would have you believe they express a sentiment he personifies. Rather, they come from a Senate debate in 1850 and were spoken by Henry Clay, known then and now as the Great Compromiser.
Clay authored the three greatest compromises in American history, two limiting the spread of slavery outside the South (1820, 1850) and one on tariffs (1833).
Of course, the 1850 compromise included the Fugitive Slave Act, which was not only barbaric but also inflamed the issue and helped lead to the Civil War.