Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Olympia Snowe Rates Obama

It wasn’t very long ago that Maine Senator Olympia Snowe was every Democrat’s favorite Republican.

When Snowe decided to retire from the Senate Democrats immediately cast her as a martyr for their cause. Democratic spinners were all over the media explaining that she was leaving the Senate because she was fed up with Republican intransigence and Tea Party extremism.

Since the Senate Democratic leadership is more interested in controlling the narrative than in getting anything done, Snowe’s retirement was quickly made to fit their storyline.

As they presented it, moderate Republican Snowe was so frustrated by her caucus colleagues that she preferred retirement.

But, reality always surpasses narration. Now that Snowe has clarified her reasoning, she is about to become every Democrat’s least favorite Republican. In other words, she is about to be erased from the narrative.

In an interview with Jonathan Karl on ABC Senator Snowe gave our president, Barack Obama, a near-failing grade for outreach. Obama said that Obama had surpassed all of his recent predecessors for his  unwillingness to reach out to Olympia Snowe.

By now everyone knows that Obama has functioned as the great divider in the White House. Having failed to master negotiation he avoids situations where he might have to reveal his  inadequacy.

In the past two years Obama has failed to have even one meeting with Olympia Snowe. He has failed to converse with the one Republican who is most likely to side with him and to work to bridge the partisan divide in the Senate.

In her 34 years in Congress the Maine Senator has never seen a president behave so badly.

Here’s how Jonathan Karl reports his interview:

If there were ever a Republican for President Obama to work with, it was Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. She was one of just three Republicans in the entire Congress to vote for his economic stimulus plan in 2009 and even tried to work with him on health care, but in an interview with ABC's Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl, Snowe makes a remarkable revelation:  She hasn't had a face-to-face meeting with President Obama in nearly two years.

Snowe said that if she had to grade the President on his willingness to work with Republicans, he would "be close to failing on that point."  In fact, Snowe, who was first elected to Congress in 1978, claims that her meetings with President Obama have been less frequent than with any other President.

Quite properly, Congressional Republicans are frustrated. Snowe explains that Washington has now become more about politics and less about policy.

In my terms, it’s become more about spinning the narrative and less about getting things done.

The Snowe revelation is significant because it shows a consistent pattern of presidential behavior.

If Obama had slighted Snowe on one occasion, it might have been a mistake or an accident. Consistency makes for habitual behavior and habitual behavior defines character.

When a house is divided against itself, the person responsible for the division is the person at the top. He sets the tone; he creates the mood. Either he negotiates, conciliates, and compromises or he seeks to create dramatic conflict.

If, on the other hand, a leader wants more drama and less work, then he does as Obama has done. If he believes in divide-and-conquer and sees politics as an exercise in imposing a narrative on the country, he will not think twice about freezing out the most conciliatory member of the opposition party.

So much for treating the other political party as the loyal opposition.

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