Obama’s first mistake was inviting the Republicans to the table. The GOP had just decimated the economy and had been repudiated by voters to such an extent that few Americans wanted to admit that they were registered Republicans. Yet Obama, with his penchant for unilateral bipartisanship, refused to speak ill of what they had done. The American people wanted the perpetrators of the Great Recession held accountable, and they wanted the president and Congress to enact legislation to prevent Wall Street bankers from ever destroying the lives of so many again. Instead they saw renewed bonuses — and then they saw red. Republicans learned very quickly that they could attack Obama and his agenda with impunity. Only at election time, or when he’s up against the ropes, does this president ever tell a story with a villain.That isn't to say that I disagree with Kevin Drum here. My biggest frustration is to try and reconcile the above statement with Drum's semi-rebuttal:
First: Obama had to invite Republicans to the table. When he took office Democrats didn't have a filibuster-proof majority...Still, life in the White House is pretty difficult when you have to constantly concern yourself with getting a couple of Republican votes, or, at best, the 60th most liberal Democrat — especially when the 60th most liberal Democrat is a self-righteous showboat like Joe Lieberman or a Nebraska pol like Ben Nelson.The answer in a rational world should have been simple: Any GOP senator from any state in the northeast that ever wanted to be reelected should go along with whatever Obama had put on the table those first months. I think both the Obama administration and Senate Democratic leadership (Harry Reed) were horrid failures when it came to recognizing that they had the upper hand and could have used it. Maybe they didn't want to but then that is their failure.
The reality is certainly more complicated, but lots of people were pretty open to trying anything then, and what ended up being tried was just not enough. I would add that the stimulus was sold as a major victory that would right the economy which really made the first failure even worse.