Obama picks another fight he can't win 

President Obama has adopted a new kind of bipartisanship -- daring Republicans to offer their policy views so that he can discredit them.

You might call it punching-bag bipartisanship. The president and his party believe that by eliciting Republican policy ideas they can remind Americans how much they hate the GOP.

Obama now says he is not going to let Republicans "sit on the sidelines" while Democrats are stuck trying to solve problems.

It's a big shift from last year, when his theme in dealing with the GOP was summed up in a favorite line from his stump speech for Democratic candidates: "I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking."

The Left believes voters have soured on Democrats because Americans have forgotten the awfulness of GOP policies.

In truth, voters tossed out the GOP because of arrogance, incompetence and corruption. It was not the policy, it was the people.

Sex scandals, corruption, profligate spending and recklessness in Iraq didn't put people off limited government, but rather government itself.

Rather than correctly reading a mandate for a sensible and competent government, Obama's hubristic agenda and dithering execution was exactly the thing to convince voters that Washington was not able to solve problems.

Now, having been thrice rebuked by voters for pushing a big, complex agenda, Obama is betting his presidency on his ability to create jobs in the next nine months.

The president wants to convince the American people that he's working every day in practical ways to put people to work while Republicans are offering no constructive answers for joblessness.

This is a poor strategy.

If Tom DeLay or Donald Rumsfeld were the ones offering the alternatives, it might flash voters back to the second Bush term with a shudder. But it's unlikely that some fresh face like Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin or Sen. John Thune of South Dakota will provoke much horror.

The administration did not learn the right lesson from picking a fight over terror policies with the greatest villain of the Left, Dick Cheney. Cheney took Obama to school and helped solidify bipartisan opposition to the president's plans to close Guantanamo Bay and treating terrorist attacks against the United States as criminal matters.

Now, Obama will attempt to give Democrats a boost by taunting Republicans for their ideas to help the economy. It will likely meet the same end as the administration's attempt at bearbaiting Cheney -- the bear gets off its chain and the dogs get mauled.

Democrats had their big chance to trap Republicans, but their health plan was too big and too shoddily built to pass, even with a supermajority in Congress. Democrats went from first and goal to their own 1-yard line on delay-of-game penalties alone. Then Scott Brown picked off their final passing play.

Republicans have little experience doing anything but opposing health care policies, but they all love to talk about economic policy and their answers sound good to voters.

Obama is offering another complex, nuanced mix of green, socially conscious stimulus efforts. So Republicans will say, "We want to get government off your back, cut spending and cut taxes."

Obama will chuckle at their simplistic answers and remind voters of the failures of the Bush era. But since Obama has lost so much credibility on issues, it's unlikely that voters will prefer his opaque promises to the straightforward solutions of the GOP, especially if the economy remains anemic after so much big talk and big government.

Even if Obama were inclined to play against type and offer straightforward solutions, his own precarious political position would not allow it.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that for the first time ever, the members of public employee unions outnumber the members of industrial unions. The slow demise of American manufacturing and the explosive growth of government means that 51 percent of the 15.4 million union workers are government employees. In 1973, they constituted less than 20 percent of the union work force.

The president and his party have always depended on unions for votes and done their bidding in Washington. Now, that means expanding the government as a jobs program for the party's most important constituency.

But alas, the more government jobs, the higher the burden on the private sector and the weaker the recovery.

That means Obama will struggle not only in the rhetorical struggle with Republicans over the economy. He will also have a devil of a time delivering results.

Chris Stirewalt is the political editor of The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at cstirewalt@dcexaminer.com

About The Author

Chris Stirewalt

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Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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