Bob Herbert piles the love on Obama:
There is always a tendency to underestimate Barack Obama. We are inclined in the news media to hyperventilate over every political or policy setback, no matter how silly or insignificant, while Mr. Obama has shown again and again that he takes a longer view.
There was no way, for example, that the Daschle flap was going to derail the forward march of a man who had survived the Rev. Jeremiah Wright fiasco. It’s early, but there are signs that Mr. Obama may be the kind of president who is incomprehensible to the cynics among us — one who is responsible and mature, who is concerned not just with the short-term political realities but also the long-term policy implications.***
The simple truth is that most Republican politicians would like Mr. Obama to fail because that is their ticket to a quick return to power. I think the president is a more formidable opponent than they realize.
Mr. Obama is like a championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike. He’s smart, deft, elegant and subtle. While Lindsey Graham was behaving like a 6-year-old on the Senate floor and Pete Sessions was studying passages in his Taliban handbook, Mr. Obama and his aides were assessing what’s achievable in terms of stimulus legislation and how best to get there.
I’d personally like to see a more robust stimulus package, with increased infrastructure spending and fewer tax cuts. But the reality is that Mr. Obama needs at least a handful of Republican votes in the Senate to get anything at all done, and he can’t afford to lose this first crucial legislative fight of his presidency.
The Democrats may succeed in bolstering their package somewhat in conference, but I think Mr. Obama would have been satisfied all along to start his presidency off with an $800 billion-plus stimulus program.
I guess the real questions are how long he is going to keep running rings around the GOP, and whether his policies are good and we are lucky he is playing the Republicans like a fiddle. It certainly does seem that President Obama couldn’t care less about the news cycle, and is, as always, thinking long term. From the presser last night:
Obama: Well, I don’t think — I don’t think I underestimated it. I don’t think the — the American people underestimated it. They understand that there have been a lot of bad habits built up here in Washington, and it’s going to take time to break down some of those bad habits.
You know, when I made a series of overtures to the Republicans, going over to meet with both Republican caucuses, you know, putting three Republicans in my cabinet — something that is unprecedented — making sure that they were invited here to the White House to talk about the economic recovery plan, all those were not designed simply to get some short-term votes. They were designed to try to build up some trust over time.
And I think that, as I continue to make these overtures, over time, hopefully that will be reciprocated.***
That doesn’t negate the continuing efforts that I’m going to make to listen and engage with my Republican colleagues. And hopefully the tone that I’ve taken, which has been consistently civil and respectful, will pay some dividends over the long term. There are going to be areas where we disagree, and there are going to be areas where we agree.
Compare that statement to the conventional wisdom last week in the media, in which Obama was rebuffed, the outreach had failed, and we were told that the dinner and drinks led to no Republican votes, and so on. The talking heads in the media are thinking short term, the President is not.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.