BRODER BEING BRODER…. A week ago, David Broder mentioned in his Washington Post column that, in the post-midterm environment, there hasn’t been any hint of Republicans’ “willingness to compromise.” I was glad to see him notice.

But those insights didn’t last. Today, Broder ponders whether President Obama will finally try bipartisan compromise with those who refuse to compromise.

What if Barack Obama is telling the truth about his own beliefs when he says that neither party by itself can realistically hope to solve the challenges facing the United States?

Suppose he means it when he says that after the shellacking he and his fellow Democrats received in the midterm elections, he is ready and willing to hear the Republicans’ ideas for dealing with jobs, taxes, energy and even nuclear weapons control.

I know that is supposing a lot — so much that it seems impossible. It’s more like the script for a Broadway musical than a plausible plotline for Washington. But nonetheless, suppose that he is serious when he says, over and over, as he did on Thanksgiving Day, that if we want to “accelerate this recovery” and attack the backlog of lost jobs, “we won’t do it as any one political party. We’ve got to do it as one people.” […]

Suppose there is a chance that he is serious — that after two years of trying to govern through one party, a party that held commanding majorities in the House and Senate but now has lost them, two years with landmark accomplishments but ultimate frustration of his hopes to change Washington, he has reverted to his original philosophy of governing.


The assumption that the president somehow abandoned his original, bipartisan, politics-be-damned approach to policymaking is popular among establishment types, but I think a good-faith analysis of Obama’s first two years reflects a very different reality. In reality, the president appeared almost desperate to generate bipartisan support for major initiatives, and to the consternation of his base, quick to make concessions in the hopes of crafting proposals with broad support.

But it wasn’t his fault these efforts failed. Republicans made a conscious, deliberate decision, which they have freely acknowledged, not to cooperate with the process of governing. Prominent GOP leaders haven’t even been shy on this point, leading to a party that balked at White House initiatives, even going so far as to reject their own ideas.

Broder makes it sound as if the White House chose to simply cut Republicans out of the debate, on purpose, as a partisan scheme. But that’s demonstrably false, at least as far as intentions go — Obama reached out to the GOP, only to find his hand slapped away by angry, bitter partisans.

But Broder really goes astray when exploring next steps.

The Post columnist insists it’s incumbent on President Obama, not congressional Republicans, to start making concessions to the other side, and specially encourages GOP leaders to go to a White House meeting this week “with a set of challenges to Obama’s seriousness.”

Why is it, exactly, that there will be no test of Republicans’ seriousness? Broder doesn’t say.

They might start with an area that traditionally has been beyond politics: national security. The president has said it is a high priority for him to see the New START treaty with Russia ratified during this lame-duck session of Congress.

Jon Kyl, the Republican No. 2 in the Senate and its lead voice on nuclear policy, has raised a number of issues he says must be resolved before such approval is given. Kyl and Obama have been negotiating through intermediaries and have satisfied each other on most but not all points.

The Republicans could ask Obama to sit down directly with Kyl and see if they can compromise on the rest. That would be a fair first test of Obama’s sincerity.

For goodness sakes. Maybe the Senate can ratify an arms treaty that advances American national security if Jon Kyl gets face time in the Oval Office? Administration officials have practically been tripping over one another, trying to figure out how to make Kyl happy. He presented some demands, the White House agreed to the terms, and Kyl still chose betrayal. A “fair first test of Obama’s sincerity” is chatting with the far-right senator one on one? Here’s an idea: maybe David Broder can offer some evidence of Jon Kyl’s sincerity, since it appears to be hiding well.

Another involves the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts. Almost everyone agrees they should be renewed for the 98 percent of American families earning below $250,000 a year. The president opposes but Republicans support extending them also for the top 2 percent.

That is another issue on which Boehner and McConnell would be justified in challenging Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to negotiate with them and the top Republicans on the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees.

Again, I don’t know which Capitol Hill Broder’s been watching, but the White House has already offered two major compromise proposals on Bush-era tax rates. Both were rejected by Republicans, who said they’re not open to compromise on this issue at all.

Broder’s entire vision of current events appears to be filtered through a Republican lens. Obama reaches out, Republicans refuse, and Broder ponders when the president will get serious about bipartisan compromise.

Has the columnist not noticed current events for the last two years?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.