When President Obama first won the White House in 2008, I was very worried that he had the potential to become a liberal version of Ronald Reagan. I thought he might have the oratory and interpersonal skills necessary to both cajole and pressure significant numbers of Republicans into putting a bipartisan seal of approval on a slew of liberal policies such as health care, global warming, immigration and entitlements.
Obama could have reshaped American society for decades to come.
Then the stimulus debate happened.
As recounted in Bob Woodward’s book “The Price of Politics,” just three days after he was inaugurated, Obama invited House Republicans to the White House to talk about how he could incorporate their ideas into the then-unwritten stimulus bill.
At the meeting, Minority Whip Eric Cantor distributed a five-point Republican stimulus plan that included tax cuts for the poorest Americans, tax cuts for small businesses, no taxes on unemployment benefits and a new homebuyer tax credit.
At the time, it was entirely possible that Obama could have taken some, or even one, of these ideas and included them in his almost $1 trillion stimulus plan. If he had, he surely would have gotten at least some Republican votes for his stimulus bill.
Instead, Obama told Cantor, “I can go it alone. … Look at the polls. The polls are pretty good for me right now. Elections have consequences. And Eric, I won.” Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was even more frank: “We have the votes. F–k ‘em.”