Editorial: Obama draws lines in the partisan sand
Toward the end of his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Barack Obama became downright inspirational as he called for a new spirit of bipartisanship.
Speaking in gentle, almost whispering tones directly to the Congress, as though for a moment he was forgetting the millions watching on television, as though he were in a small room with a handful of friendly colleagues from Capitol Hill, Obama became like something of a father offering loving advice to wayward kids.
"The question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America's hopes," the president said. "I've served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me this isn't what you signed up for, arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.
"Imagine if we broke out of these tired old politics. Imagine if we did something different."
Beautiful sentiments. Delivered with precision and eloquence.
He had us at hello.
The common-ground theme, of course, is an Obama tradition. He first mesmerized the nation with his red-state-blue-state-United-States speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
Even before then, it was part of his message. We vividly recall him visiting with us earlier that year while running for the U.S. Senate and persuasively making a point that he echoed Tuesday night that there are areas of common ground even for those on both sides of the polarizing abortion debate.
In fact, it was Obama's self-created image as a collaborator (cue the famous Kirk Dillard compliments) that made us so optimistic about his first presidential campaign in 2008. And his failure to have been one that left us so disappointed by the time of his second campaign in 2012.
Which brings us back to the State of the Union address. The president was three quarters of the way into it before he struck his bipartisan pose.
In the first three quarters of it, he set out a sharp Democratic agenda that, whether good or bad, has no chance of passage with Republicans now in control of both houses of Congress. He offered no graceful acknowledgment of the elections last fall that went decidedly against him. And he drew lines in the sand with repeated veto threats.
This unfortunately is no way to collaborate.
Yes, Republicans sat on their hands through the applause lines and we're not happy with that display.
But if the president wants bipartisanship, he needs to work for bipartisanship.
Not just talk about it.