There’s been a lot of talk this election year about change, about who would be the candidate most likely to reach across the aisle in the spirit of getting things done in Washington.Â Barack Obama has talked a good talk on the issue, but when it comes to the walk, the USA Today correctly points out that John McCain has a proven track record of reaching across the aisle that Barack Obama does not:
Presidents who try to push through major policy changes without the opposing party almost always come to grief. George W. Bush’s bid to create private accounts for Social Security collapsed in 2005 when Democrats rejected it. A decade earlier, Bill Clinton’s health care overhaul died for lack of Republican input and support.
Social Security and health care remain unreformed, and whether the next president is Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, he’ll need help from members of the other party to address these and other pressing issues. So it’s reasonable to ask whether either of them — both self-styled change agents who tout their ability to cross political lines — have shown they can do this.
McCain, in Congress for 26 years to Obama’s four, has the longer record of producing bipartisan alliances on tough issues. He has bucked his party again and again to do just that — on immigration, federal judges and campaign finance, to name three on which he enraged many Republicans by defying the party position and working with Democrats. McCain-the-maverick has reverted to party orthodoxy on taxes and other issues this year, which will put him in a bind if elected: Would he stick with those new positions, or compromise with the Democratic Congress he’d likely be working with?
As McCain points out on the campaign trail, Obama has a much thinner record of bucking his own party. With the exception of tough fights for ethics reforms in the Illinois Senate and in Washington — where he angered Democratic colleagues by insisting on the disclosure of lobbyists who bundle campaign donations — Obama has rarely challenged party dogma on the sort of big, contentious issues he’d face as president. As a U.S. senator, he has taken liberal Democratic positions on most issues. Studies by Congressional Quarterly show Obama has voted with his party almost 97% of the time, vs. about 85% for McCain.
Obama’s bipartisan accomplishments in Washington have been on significant, but relatively non-controversial, efforts to secure nuclear weapons and establish a federal-spending database. What he lacks is a record of challenging his own party on divisive, difficult issues — the deficit, immigration, energy — that he’d have to reach out to Republicans on if he’s elected. Even with a Democratic majority in Congress, it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass most major measures.
In this piece, the USA Today argues points that conservatives have been arguingÂ about McCain for years – points about McCain that sometimes infuriate conservatives because at times it’s like he’s willing to throw his own party and certain party principles under the bus in an effort to be seen as bipartisan.Â Regardless of personal conservative feelings about McCain’s actions on that front, however,Â I don’t think that many of us can disagree with the USA Today’sÂ overall assessment of his record on reaching out across the aisle.Â For better or worse, that is one of theÂ issues this election is all about, and while Barack Obama has made big speeches and big promises about wanting to make government work again by “working with” the opposition party, his thin record doesn’t back up his rhetoric.
In his response piece to the USA Today editorial,Â Obama again brings up theÂ percentageÂ of times McCain has voted with Bush as if that’s supposed to indicate that McCain has not infuriated his party on numerous occasions (surely, Obama has seen this??), and ignores the fact that he has voted with a Democratic CongressÂ that has a 9% approval rating 97% of the time and as the USA Today rightly points out, there’s very little bipartisanship to show with that 97% voting-with-the-left record, unlike McCain’s repeated gestures to reach across the aisle even with the 85% voting-with-GWB number. In fact, that number is misleading, considering what Fact Check says about a couple of years of McCain’s voting record while Bush has been president:
However, McCain’s support of President Bush’s position has been as low as 77 percent (in 2005), and his support for his party’s position has been as low as 67 percent (2001).
In Barack Obama’s 3+ years in the Senate (2 of them spent campaigning for president), he can’t come anywhere close to those numbers.Â Â Not once.
In summary, for Barack Obama to act like McCain isn’t his own man and will simply be a “third Bush term” in office is not just misleading, it’s a flat out lie.Â In this lie (and the one I wrote about last night about his Spanish languageÂ race-baiting ad attacking McCain)Â we again see another, and it’s that Barack Obama’s repeated promises to bring a “new tone” to Washington, to stop playing the “same ol’ DC political games everyone’s tired of” are, well, just words.
Semi-related 2: Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a prominent Hillary supporter and member of Democratic National Committee’s platform committee, endorsed John McCain yesterday – and is appearing on the major nets explaining why, as she does here with a stunned Wolf Blitzer. I watched her on Fox News this morning, and she’s just the kind of Democrat the far left can’t stand – a centrist. Which makes me wonder how she and Hillary got along so well