Monday, January 18, 2016

GOP to Blame for Civility Breakdown

So says Fox News analyst Juan Williams on The Hill.

If you ask me, President Obama is being way too hard on himself.

“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency, that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” the president said during his final State of the Union address last week. He added, “a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.” 

While I’m all for humility, the president is not to blame for the rancor and polarization that have characterized his presidency. It was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) who famously declared that his number one goal was to make Obama a “one-term president.”

Obama is not responsible for the unprecedented obstructionism employed by McConnell’s Senate Republicans to block nearly all of his nominees and proposals. He has not even used executive action to get around Congress as extensively as did Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. But his critics deride him as a constitutional outlaw.

Similarly, ObamaCare is based on Republican proposals such as the healthcare plan Mitt Romney put in place as governor of Massachusetts. How is Obama to blame for Congressional Republicans stopping cap-and-trade proposals to reduce air pollution when the idea originated with them? 

Despite all this, the president seemed willing to take responsibility for polls showing a high percentage of Americans think the country is going in the wrong direction, and are angry at him and Washington. But he won the White House twice and his approval rating, despite the non-stop attacks, is about 44 percent. The GOP-led Congress has an approval rating of around 13 percent. So who is dragging down the country?

The calls for the GOP majority in Congress to block Obama at every turn are rooted in paranoid, arguably racist, fringes of the electorate. 

“Has Mr. Obama always confronted a ceiling in how widely he would be loved or even accepted because he is the nation’s first African-American president?,” Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald F. Seib wondered last week.  

Good question. Let’s not forget that the current front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, Donald Trump, made his name among Republicans back in 2011 by talking up conspiracy theories about the president’s birth certificate. 

Last September, a PPP poll found that 61 percent of Trump supporters believe Obama was born in another country and 44 percent of all Republicans hold to the same misconception. A CNN poll found that 43 percent of Republicans believe the president is a Muslim, not a Christian. These are the same Republicans who desperately tried to cripple Obama in the 2008 election for being too close to his Christian minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. 

Again, how was Obama supposed to bridge that divide?

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