Friday, November 19, 2010

With All Disrespect, Mr. President - NYTimes.com

With All Disrespect, Mr. President - NYTimes.com

There was supposed to be a bipartisan summit at the White House on Thursday, but only the Democrats showed up. The Republican leadership of the House and Senate somehow couldn’t find any time in their schedules to meet with the president of the United States. If this is what cooperation and mutual respect is going to look like over the next two years, then settle in for more trench warfare and far less progress.

It has been more than two weeks since President Obama issued a postelection invitation for Congressional leaders to join him for dinner on Nov. 18 to discuss “how we can move the American people’s agenda forward.” Republicans left him hanging, refusing to commit to a date even as the office of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said he was encouraged that the president wanted to discuss areas of agreement.

On Wednesday, the Republicans, led by Mr. McConnell, said they just didn’t have the time. They had discovered there was so much to do — new members to welcome and lots of other unspecified details. Besides, they said, the president should have asked for a mutually agreeable date instead of just inviting them. So the meeting was pushed back until Nov. 30.

As the Republicans know, that means less time to work out important compromises in the remaining lame-duck session on crucial issues like taxes, the nuclear arms treaty with Russia and extending unemployment insurance. So far, in fact, there has been zero interest in actual compromise on any of those issues, despite extended hands from the White House.

On Thursday, House Republicans blocked a bill that would extend long-term unemployment insurance past the holidays.

Beyond the practical implications of this rudeness, there is an increasingly obvious lack of respect for the president and the presidency, with Republicans interpreting their electoral victory as a mandate to act with hubris.

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