Obama tells GOP, ‘I won’

OBAMA TELLS GOP, ‘I WON’…. President Obama is, for good or ill, making a sincere effort to work with congressional Republicans, most notably on an economic stimulus package. That doesn’t mean, however, that’s he’s going to get pushed around.

President Obama listened to Republican gripes about his stimulus package during a meeting with congressional leaders Friday morning — but he also left no doubt about who’s in charge of these negotiations. “I won,” Obama noted matter-of-factly, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

In context, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told the president that the Democratic plan to give a tax credit to those who don’t pay income taxes isn’t a tax cut, but rather, a check. Obama responded that this was a common point of debate during the presidential campaign — McCain/Palin called Obama’s plan “welfare” — and voters were not swayed by Republican arguments. “I won,” Obama told lawmakers.

So, Obama wasn’t throwing too sharp an elbow, but it was nevertheless a not-so-subtle reminder to the minority party. There are two sides to this debate, and one of them has the backing of the American electorate, and was endorsed after a national campaign based on a specific policy platform. Hint to Kyl: it’s not your side.

I can only hope the president keeps this in mind as the negotiations continue. It’s very gracious of him to try to bring in the failed and unpopular party to work on these issues, but before any major concessions are made, that single phrase — “I won” — should be front and center.

It’s already drawing complaints from the right, with suggestions that Obama is being insufficiently “bipartisan” by stating that his position is superior to the Republican/losing position. But that seems to miss the point — Obama is willing to work with the minority party on this, and he’s even willing to weaken his own stimulus plan to accommodate their concerns.

But there are lines he’s not going to cross. That’s not rigid partisanship; it’s negotiating from a position of strength.