Bipartisanship — with a twist

BIPARTISANSHIP — WITH A TWIST…. I have an op-ed in the New York Daily News today exploring an idea that I’ve been kicking around for a while. Here’s the lede:

Two short years ago, one of the presidential tickets had the wisdom to not only acknowledge the climate crisis, but also to present credible solutions to address it.

If elected, the tandem told Americans, they intended to do what the Bush administration would not: establish “a cap-and-trade system that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and pursue “alternatives to carbon-based fuels.” The result, they said, would be “a better future for our children.”

The candidates were John McCain and Sarah Palin.

The nuances matter, but the differences between the Democratic vision on energy policy and the McCain-Palin platform are relatively minor. In fact, if the White House were prepared to open negotiations with a Republican-led House next year, President Obama could do worse than starting with the McCain-Palin plan.

With that in mind, why doesn’t he do just that? What better way for a Democratic President to demonstrate a commitment to bipartisanship than by embracing specific Republican proposals?

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. At first blush, this might seem as if I’m suggesting that, in the wake of the midterms, President Obama abandon his agenda, move to the right, and adopt Republican ideas.

But that’s not what I’m suggesting at all. In fact, it’s largely the opposite — I argue in the piece that President Obama should continue to endorse the same agenda he’s embraced all along, but do so by characterizing his ideas as bipartisan ideas.

In other words, Obama wants a cap-and-trade plan? Well, McCain/Palin called for cap-and-trade, so the president can say he’s endorsing the McCain/Palin energy proposal. Obama wants comprehensive immigration reform? Well Bush’s proposal on the issue is very similar, so the president can say he’s endorsing the Bush immigration plan.

The conventional wisdom suggests the White House will have to choose between pushing Obama’s ideas and reaching out to Republicans. But what if the White House could reach out to Republicans by presenting Obama’s ideas as actual GOP proposals?

The goal would have less to do with magnanimity and more to do with throwing Republicans off-balance. It ultimately becomes something of a dare: will Republicans condemn policies crafted by their own leaders as quasi-socialist radicalism?

Take a look and let me know what you think.