I've repeatedly mocked Barack Obama's previous suggestions that he would eliminate division and partisanship in Washington, so it was great to see him prioritizing good policy over "bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake" in an interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson yesterday (key quote in bold, my emphasis):
CHARLES GIBSON: And talking of politics, you have said you want bipartisanship in this bill, you want Republican support. You didn't get any in the House, and the leader of the House, the speaker of the House, said, well, yes, we wrote the bill and, yes, we won the election.
Is that kind of an in-your-face trash-talking to the Republicans?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think what Speaker Pelosi also said was that she wanted to sit down with them and talk to them and, in fact, included some of their ideas in the package. I mean, keep in mind, when I first released the framework for our plan, we were complimented by the Republicans for the fact that about $300 billion of the package was in the form of tax cuts. I was criticized by members of my own party.
Now, that hasn't changed much. The only thing that's changed is the politics of it. And I'm less concerned about bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake. I'm interested in solving the problem for the American people as quickly as possible. And I think that we have an obligation to make sure this money is spent wisely. I want this thing to move through the Senate. I want the House and the Senate bills to be reconciled.
The problem Obama has, however, is that he previously put such a focus on "bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake" that the Washington press is predictably holding him to an impossible standard in which he fails if the stimulus package passes without a substantial number of GOP votes. As Eric Boehlert of Media Matters pointed out, NBC's Chuck Todd even asked if Obama would veto his own stimulus bill "if it didn't have Republican support."
The pattern here is disturbingly familiar. The Washington press focuses on political tactics rather than substance because tactics are both more entertaining and easier to cover. In this case, rather than questioning Obama about how to make the stimulus bill more effective, they are berating him for failing to get enough Republican support -- a trivial issue given the severity of the economic crisis.