President Barack Obama’s bipartisan healthcare summit is taking on the trappings of a diplomatic visit, complete with a gilt-edged setting at Blair House, the federal style mansion where foreign heads of state stay when they’re in Washington.
Tales from the Trail
By the look of things, the American public just might vote Congress out of office this November – Republican and Democrat alike.
Evan Bayh wants out of Washington but wonders if the partisan bickering he leaves behind will one day be swept aside by a new Ross Perot riding a third-party tidal wave of public anger.
After the November election, there will not be a Kennedy in Congress for the first time in almost half a century because Representative Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has decided to retire from his Rhode Island seat.
The president wants it. The public wants it.
But when it comes to bipartisanship, words are easier than action — especially in an election year.
Once, a first-term Democratic president failed to deliver on healthcare reform and found his party swept from office by a wave of voter anger that brought Republican Newt Gingrich to the forefront of American politics. Could this history lesson from the Clinton era be repeated?
Has President Obama opened a Pandora’s Box marked “Culture War” by moving — however slowly – to repeal the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays in the military?
Conservative punditry hasn’t weighed in yet. But there’s no reason to doubt the issue will be red meat for those who want to sink the Obama agenda and send congressional Democrats to the unemployment office in November.
“Our service members wear the uniform to fight and win wars, not serve as liberal-social-policy guinea pigs,” Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, tells Time magazine.
Sen. John McCain, a top Republican on military affairs, accused the administration of acting by fiat to circumvent Congress and the military’s chain of command after the Pentagon announced a year-long review of the policy.
“You’re embarking on saying it’s not whether the military prepares to make the change but how we best prepare for it, without ever hearing from members of Congress, without hearing from the members of the Joint Chiefs, and of course, without taking into consideration all the ramifications,” he told Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen at a Senate Armed Services hearing yesterday.
Polling data show most Americans favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military. But the risk for Obama is that Republicans and their talk-show allies will cry up the issue and steer the now palpable frustrations of voters against him and his fellow Democrats.
Democrats, who got a taste of that voter frustration in Massachusetts last month, now hope to win favor by making the economy their top priority.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer favors repeal but seems happy to let the Pentagon take the lead until after this year’s election.
“What I want members to do in their districts? I want them to focus on jobs and fiscal responsibility. Those are our messages,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters. “The American public clearly wants us focused on growing the economy, adding jobs. That is a principle responsibility.”