Voters who flocked to the Republican banner seven weeks ago are probably scratching their heads, wondering, “Who really won in November?” After handing the president and Congressional Democrats the worst drubbing in more than half a century, they can only watch in disbelief as President Barack Obama has reeled off a series of unexpected victories.Â A new stimulus bill, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and now START — who would have believed that this shirt-tail session of Congress would have been so triumphant? They call it “lame duck” but it was anything but lame.
What happened? One answer, I would submit, is that the president and his team found a better approach to governing: Instead of relying on the Democratic caucus in each chamber to deliver, they built up coalitions of their own that swayed public opinion in their direction and gave them leverage in Congress. On the extension of tax breaks — along with several other tax breaks the president wanted — the White House cut a deal with Sen. Mitch McConnell and other Republicans. Liberal Democrats naturally cried foul, but the White House-GOP coalition sent a persuasive signal to the public that this was a reasonable compromise. Polls showed the public coming down in favor, and as night follows day, Congress voted the compromise into law. (Contrast how quickly the public turned against the health care reform when it was a Democrats-only bill.) On “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and on START, the White House had a different, but equally formidable, coalition that helped to turn the tide in the president’s direction. The fact that Bob Gates — one of the most respected defense chiefs in history — and the chair of the Joint Chiefs, along with the poll of service members, came out in favor of repealing DADT made a huge difference in swaying both public opinion and Congress.Â START appeared all but dead until the president assembled a group of Republican heavyweights — from George H.W. Bush and Kissinger to Baker and Shultz — whose vocal support for the treaty reversed the momentum. In each case, there were also Senate stalwarts — Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins on DADT, John Kerry on START — who delivered, too.
Here is my opinion… We have an opportunity to really see what Pres. Obama’s leadership ability is. Will he, like Pres. Clinton, work with the Republicans and get things done? Can he co-opt enough of their ideas without looking like a total sell out to his liberal base? Clinton also had the far left crying foul, but the reality is he was one of the most effective, if not the most effective politician, in recent history.