Obama’s Senate savvy is showing
Looks like President Barack Obama hasn’t forgotten his political roots in the Senate.
Presidents over the years have found one sure way to annoy members of Congress: act like you don’t care about them.
So when Obama took the rare step of going to their turf to meet with just the Senate Republicans — the party that has pretty much stood in his way since he got elected — it showed some political savvy.
Whatever happens, the Republicans aren’t going to be able to cry that he never listens.
A love fest it wasn’t. But he did show up.
They talked about economic measures, the START treaty, his Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, immigration reform, and energy legislation.
As he left Capitol Hill, Obama told reporters: “It was a good, frank discussion on a whole range of issues.” (In Washington speak “frank” usually signals disagreement).
“Obviously, there were continued differences on some of these issues. But, the president believes that direct dialogue is better than posturing, and he was pleased to have the opportunity to share views with the conference,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
So how was it for the Republicans?
“We thought it was certainly worthwhile,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said. “Surely you didn’t think we were going to walk out of there and have some specific agreement on one of these issues. That was not anticipated by him or by us. I think coming up and talking is always a good sign.”
Senator George LeMieux said the meeting was cordial with some “moments of disagreement.” But, he added, “It was a good discussion. The president said that he was willing to go half way on issues or three-quarters of the way.”
One Republican, who didn’t want to be identified, said Senator Bob Corker told Obama it was “audacious” of him to come and talk about bipartisanship, given his track record on legislation such as banking reform.
“He needs to take a Valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans,” Senator Pat Roberts said, according to The Washington Post. “He’s pretty thin-skinned.”
Regardless of how they felt afterward, Republicans applauded the president entering and leaving the room.
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama escorted into Senate Republican Caucus)