A fleeting moment

A FLEETING MOMENT…. On Sunday night, announcing Osama bin Laden’s demise, President Obama told the nation, “[T]onight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.”

On Monday night, at a bipartisan social gathering with congressional leaders, the president stressed a similar point: “[T]here have been several moments like this during the course of this year that have brought us together as an American family…. Last night was one of those moments. And so tonight it is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face.”

Here’s hoping Obama kept his expectations low. Dana Milbank noted, “The Pax bin Ladenis is over before it really began.”

Thirteen hours later, Republicans answered Obama’s plea for bonhomie — with broadsides. “The command-and-control paranoia that we see in this administration is antithetical to everything that we understand about freedom in our country,” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) declared on the Senate floor as the chamber began its first legislative day after a two-week vacation. “Individual responsibility and individual freedom and free markets and free enterprise: They’re attacking it on every front.”

House leaders emerged from their caucus meeting Tuesday morning with a similar response to the whole unity thing. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), chairman of the Republican caucus, reported his finding that the recession and slow recovery are “attributable to the president and the previous Congress.” […]

Senate Democrats made clear that, after passing a ceremonial resolution about bin Laden’s end, they would return to skirmishing over oil company subsidies and judicial nominees. House Republicans signaled that they would proceed with divisive legislation on oil drilling, abortion and undoing health-care reform.

The New York Times added, “Whatever sense of unity the nation might have felt after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it did not extend to the pressing domestic policy issues that divide Congressional Republicans and Democrats, who returned to work in earnest Tuesday.”

This isn’t surprising, and frankly, it’s not especially troubling. Washington is deeply divided, partisan differences haven’t been this stark in decades, and Congress is just returning from a two-week recess, getting ready to dig into contentious issues again. I’m sure lawmakers are pleased with Sunday’s success in Abbottabad, but by all appearances, there’s no reason to think May 1 is The Day That Changed Everything.

The political divisions that existed before the raid on bin Laden’s compound still existed afterwards.

When policymakers get along, it’s certainly nice, but we have parties that disagree with one another, one of which has been radicalized to an extent unseen in generations. They’re going to fight. They’re supposed to fight. Americans gave power to a center-left White House, gave center-left Democrats a narrow majority in a dysfunctional Senate, and handed a House majority to right-wing Republicans — all at the same time. Americans then, in effect, said, “Go pursue your agendas.”

And that’s exactly what they’re doing. There’s no reason to be surprised or even disappointed.