- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2010

Bipartisanship is the word of the hour in Washington, and President Obama’s teleprompter seems to be stuck on it. This is nothing new for him. The president came to town promising a new bipartisanship, along with openness, transparency, responsibility and a number of other hopes and changes he immediately dumped overboard.

At his impromptu press conference on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said, “Bipartisanship can’t be that I agree to all the things that they believe in or want and they agree to none of the things I believe in or want.” That, however, has been his working definition of bipartisanship since his first day in office. This was evident a year ago when the White House labeled the stimulus bill a “bipartisan victory” after it had passed with support from just three Republicans in the Senate and none in the House of Representatives. Opposition to the bill, which included 11 Democratic House dissenters, was more bipartisan than the support. All told, the primary feature of Mr. Obama’s definition of bipartisanship is that he gets his way.

There was little need for Mr. Obama to include Republicans in his legislative calculus. The Democrats enjoyed supermajorities in both houses and, armed with what they thought was a political blank check, went on a spending and regulating rampage. They exhibited the worst aspects of old-style politics: favoritism, cronyism, unrestrained spending, backroom deals, arrogance, conceit and extreme partisanship. Mr. Obama’s freshman year left the country with astronomical deficits and not much else.

When the public objected to this irresponsible and reckless behavior - exhibited at town-hall protests and Tea Party demonstrations - Mr. Obama responded, “I don’t want folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to just get out of the way so we can clean up the mess.” Shut up, sit down and take your medicine - that’s bipartisanship Obama-style.

Now Mr. Obama is talking up bipartisanship again, but nothing has really changed. His proposed bipartisan fiscal commission will have no authority and will serve only as a political fig leaf. The planned Feb. 25 televised bipartisan gathering on health care obviously is intended as a made-for-TV spectacle. Mr. Obama claims he wants to use the event to hear the best ideas for pushing forward the stalled health care legislation, but those ideas have been available since the beginning of the process. It’s not the Republicans’ fault the Democrats ignored them.

Republicans are right to smell a rat. Serious matters of public policy are not hashed out during one-time televised extravaganzas. Mr. Obama said, “The people who sent us here expect a seriousness of purpose that transcends petty politics,” but there is nothing serious about his proposed meeting. It will be rigged to make the Republicans look like obstructionists and cast Mr. Obama as the conciliator trying to rise above politics. As the president demonstrated at the Republican retreat in Baltimore last month, he will not feel restrained by facts when making his case.

It is evidence of Mr. Obama’s political weakness that he seeks to blame his legislative failures on obstructionist Republicans. The reasons for his failure are more rooted in his hard-left orientation, his lack of executive experience, his inadequate understanding of the legislative process and his apparent belief that no one rightly should disagree with him on anything, ever. This combination of ideology, ignorance and arrogance is the root cause of the collapse of his legislative agenda and the public’s growing discontent with his presidency.

A truly bipartisan approach means treating the opposition as partners in a spirit of inclusion, cooperation and respect. That is not Mr. Obama’s style.