One of the memes that Republicans have repeated about President Barack Obama is that he’s “the most partisan President ever.” For example, we heard those words in early 2010 from Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan, in late 2010 from political organizer Karl Rove, and during last year’s campaign from Rep. Paul Ryan.
The Washington Post pointed out a year ago that in fact President George W. Bush had a bigger split in his approval/disapproval from Americans in the two parties during his second term. But actual data doesn’t matter to people with OIP Derangement Syndrome.
Just before last fall’s election Republican speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote of the President:
He misread his Republican opponents from day one. If he had been large-spirited and conciliatory he would have effectively undercut them, and kept them from uniting. (If he'd been large-spirited with Mr. Romney, he would have undercut him, too.) Instead he was toughly partisan, he shut them out, and positions hardened.As a reader on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish remembered, Noonan was among the conservatives Obama met with in January 2009 in an attempt at political outreach and reconciliation. But somehow it’s his fault that her party’s “positions hardened.”
At the end of last year President Obama had his former opponent Mitt Romney to lunch at the White House. He did the same with Sen. John McCain after the election in 2008. And that conciliatory tradition goes all the way back to…2008. No one remembers George W. Bush doing that right after the election. Yet people with OIP Derangement Syndrome see this President as “the most partisan.”
Right now the right wing in Washington is upset about President Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. That supposedly ultra-partisan politician wants to appoint a Republican to his cabinet, a man whom fellow Republicans praised in the past as Vice Presidential material, a “respected leader in America,” and a “leading voice in foreign affairs.” Regardless of Hagel’s merits, he’s not evidence of Obama being the “most partisan President ever.”
Indeed, it’s valuable to look back at the beginning of 2009 when President Obama was assembling his first cabinet. He offered posts to three Republicans: Robert Gates as a holdover Defense Secretary, Rep. Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary, and Sen. Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary. Gregg first accepted the offer, then turned it down after an outcry from fellow Republicans.
Who was the last U.S. President to try to bring three members of the opposing party into his first cabinet? That had never happened since the birth of the modern party system. In other words, Obama was trying to be the least partisan new President in memory. But many Republicans project their own partisanship, fear, and hatred onto this President.