Some people- and I'm not talking about Barack Obama- just won't be satisfied. On Thursday, the President announced "Because Democrats and responsible Republicans came together, the first government shutdown in 17 years is now over."
The President downplayed the political advantage gained by his party in the crisis, warning "let's be clear: There are no winners here." Both sides, he maintained, were to blame: "And of course, we know that the American people's frustration with what goes on in this town has never been higher. That's not a surprise that the American people are completely fed up with Washington." For emphasis, he later added "understand that how business is done in this town has to change."
For the President, it was not Republicans nor the GOP-controlled House to blame because "there's a lot of noise out there, and the pressure from the extremes..." In that vein, he cautioned "all of us (to) stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict."
Nor was it just rhetoric. The President endorsed a prime objective of the GOP when there is a Democratic president, urging "a balanced approach to a responsible budget, a budget that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further." And he backed the longtime Republican aim to imperil vulnerable elderly people, stressing "the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security" to "make sure those are here for future generations." Destroying the village in order to save it: always a winning formula.
President Obama extended the olive branch (for the 327 time) to the Party which only a few days earlier was threatening to wreck the nation's economy. The Democratic president, nonetheless, blamed "Washinggon (and) this town (and) extremists," whomever they might be. And Republican members of Congress responded in typical fashion.
President Obama put in a plug for comprehensive immigration reform in his speech, and Representative Raul Labrador (R-ID) barked "I think it would be crazy for the House leadership to enter into negotiations with him. He's trying to destroy the Republican Party, not to get good policies. I don't see how he would in good faith negotiate with us on immigration."
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, hailed by the mainstream media as a "moderate Republican" before he went into hiding on immigration reform and then on the government shutdown/debt crisis, was asked on Fox News Sunday about Laborador's claim and, given a chance to express caution, instead remarked
What Congressman Labrador is addressing is something that I hear from opponents of our efforts all the time and I think that's a valid point, and that is this: you have a government and a White House that consistently ignored the law and how to apply it. Look at the health care law. The law is on the books, they decide which parts of it to apply and which parts not to apply. They issue their own waivers without any congressional oversight.
The question, though, had been about immigration reform and when Chris Wallace pressed him on that, Rubio contended
Now, this notion that they're going to get in a room and negotiate a deal with the president on immigration is much more difficult to do for two reasons. Number one, because of the way that president (sic) has behaved towards his opponents over the last few weeks, as well as the White House and the things that they've said and done. And number two, because of what I outlined to you.
So, I certainly think that immigration reform is a lot harder to achieve today and it was just three weeks ago because of what's happened here.
That is, in technical terms, poppycock. To be generous to Obama, perhaps Rubio is reluctant to negotiate with the President because the GOP appears to have had their posteriors realigned in the recent negotiations over shutting down government and raising the debt limit. But even there, Republicans merely lost a battle in a war they're winning (over budgetary priorities). Instead, the Florida senator is probably playing a double game, shifting from an apparent supporter of immigration reform to an opponent, and back, as circumstances dictate.
The biggest danger, though, remains that the GOP someday will stop opposing everything Obama and realize that, as someone who wants to cut Medicare and Social Security and prioritize debt reduction over job creation, he only has their interests at heart.