Obama: Can he bridge the partisan gap?

President Obama would like to create a new spirit of consensus so that the nation can get things done. Will he receive cooperation from the GOP and from members of his own party?

Bill Clinton urged an end to “acrimony and division” and ended up being impeached. George W. Bush vowed to “change the tone” in Washington and bitterly divided the country. “Presidents typically kick off their terms with calls for greater civility and cooperation,” said Mark Leibovich in The New York Times, only to have their bipartisan overtures rejected amid a resumption of bitter political warfare. Will Barack Obama suffer the same fate? If he does, said David Ignatius in The Washington Post, it won’t be because he didn’t try. “His Cabinet is so centrist it almost resembles a government of national unity.” His call for $300 billion in tax cuts has pleasantly surprised Republicans as much as his recent power dinner with leading conservative columnists. “But it remains an open question whether Republicans will do more than applaud politely when he asks for help.”

The new president shouldn’t expect any cooperation from the GOP, said Alan Wolfe in The New Republic Online. In Congress, Republican centrists have either lost their seats to Democrats or been driven out of the party, leaving “hard-right activists not especially interested in bipartisanship, policy, or responsibility.” They opposed the federal bailout of the banking and auto industries, and are convinced that all government programs and taxes are inherently evil. As an embattled minority, it costs them nothing to cause “as much mischief as they are capable of imagining.” Obama can expect nothing but trouble from the GOP.

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