Bipartisanship and Reading Comprehension

The wingnuts are throwing fits over the new president making it clear that Democrats will no longer ask, “How high?” when Republicans tell them to jump.

What did Pres. Obama say that righties find so outrageous? (Emphasis mine.)

President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration.

You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,” he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.

One White House official confirmed the comment but said he was simply trying to make a larger point about bipartisan efforts.

“There are big things that unify Republicans and Democrats,” the official said. “We shouldn’t let partisan politics derail what are very important things that need to get done.”

The first paragraph, of course, is the New York Post‘s interpretation of Obama’s quoted words, and obviously anyone with rudimentary reading comprehension skills will see that “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh…” does not mean “[Republicans] need to quit listening to Rush Limbaugh,” and “get things done” does not mean “get along with Democrats and the new administration.”

Nevertheless, wingnuttia is choosing to believe the Post‘s interpretation and not Obama’s actual words.

Assuming that the New York Post‘s reporting is accurate — which, as Steve Benen points out, is not necessarily a safe assumption — Pres. Obama’s message to congressional Republicans was that “they may not want to take marching orders from this loudmouth clown.” Get it? “May not want to take marching orders.” Not “Should quit listening to.”

I suspect the point wasn’t to go after Limbaugh specifically, but rather to note that if the White House is going to have a productive, cooperative working relationship with congressional Republicans, it’s better for everyone if GOP lawmakers don’t rely on right-wing shock-jocks for wisdom and legislative strategies, especially those who root against America. Sounds like good advice.

Barbara O’Brien puts it in blunter terms:

I think President Obama was trying to signal that if Republicans get serious about governing, and if they bring serious ideas to the table, he is willing to listen to them and work with them. But if they continue their usual pattern of playing childish political games, they can go to hell.

The problem is, Republicans (and all too many Democrats) don’t understand what “bipartisan” means. Barbara’s got that one covered, too:

An online dictionary defines “bipartisanship” as “of, relating to, or involving members of two parties; specifically: marked by or involving cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two major political parties.” In other words, it is two parties working together, not Party R trying to undermine the other for political advantage, while Party D passively lets them get away with it.
[…]
People across the political spectrum have got a weird idea that “bipartisanship” means Democrats must meet Republicans halfway, even if the Republicans are being ridiculous and undermining everything the Dems are trying to do. Frankly, I don’t think that’s what it means.

First, Republicans are a minority party, and an increasingly regional party. The majority of Americans should not be held hostage by the minority. Republicans have not earned the right, or the votes, to be met halfway. They can be met as far as voters’ endorsed them, but that’s less than halfway.
Second, bipartisanship requires “cooperation, agreement, and compromise.” If Republicans are just going to lie, grandstand and obstruct, there can be no bipartisanship, and that will be their fault. I think President Obama is signaling that he doesn’t want to shut the Republicans out of the governing loop, but no one will work “with” them until they demonstrate they can be worked with.

So far, they haven’t.

4 Responses to “Bipartisanship and Reading Comprehension”

  1. tas says:

    This wasn’t the point of the NY Post article you linked to, but one paragraph — a new GOP talking point — really irked me:

    “Republicans say the $825 billion price tag is too big a burden for a nation crippled by debt and that it doesn’t do enough to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes.”

    Contrast this with the bill Bush, battling a (much) less threatening recession in 2001, got passed:

    “With big bipartisan majorities, Congress passes Bush’s $1.35 trillion package of tax cuts, the centerpiece of the administration’s economic program. ”

    So when Obama tries to pass a financial bill that’s under a trillion dollars, Congression GOP think it’s “too big”. But when Bush hammers home a $1.35 trillion tax cut bill in 2001, that’s somehow not too big? And sorry, but anybody who thinks that tax cuts are the biggest stimulator to an economy is a nincompoop who hasn’t been paying attention for the last 8 years.

    I’m not for bipartisanship — I’m all for telling these backwardsass hypocrite morons to shove it.

  2. Kathy says:

    You cannot stimulate the economy by cutting taxes. They know that, too. They know it.

  3. Ted says:

    WTF, at least El Rushbo is constitutionally qualified to be President!

  4. tas says:

    Ted, if you don’t think Obama is constitutionally qualified to be president after witnessing his inauguration, then you’re stupid.

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