A role reversal on compromise

E.J. Dionne Jr. made a sharp observation about the tone of President Obama’s speech last night.

The best part of President Obama’s speech … was his hammering over and over the need to pass “this bill,” meaning his bill to boost the economy. It wasn’t, “we can work this out,” or, “I look forward to talking to Speaker Boehner.” No, Obama said flatly that the economy is in crisis, that action is needed right now, and that he had put together a recipe whose ingredients include many ideas Republicans had supported in the past. He didn’t say it explicitly, but he might as well have said to the Republicans, “So what’s your problem?”

Agreed. Obama said, “Pass this jobs bill” or “You should pass this jobs plan right away” more than a dozen times, demonstrating message discipline unseen in recent years.

I can think of other instances in which the president was conciliatory in speeches like these, acknowledging he doesn’t fully expect every provision to be approved. Last night, a more combative, aggressive leader was on display.

And this, in turn, led to a bizarre role reversal. Here’s what House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Politico last night:

“The message [from the president] was: either accept my package as it is, or I will take it to the American people. I would say that that’s the wrong approach. What we’re here to do is try to transcend differences, not let them get in the way in the areas we can make progress on.”

Is that so. Hmm.

So, according to the House Republican leader, President Obama’s problem is that he’s unwilling to compromise? The unyielding GOP leader who nearly crashed the economy on purpose in July is now talking about “transcending differences” and “making progress”?

I’m used to one side being the aggressor and the other being conciliatory. When the usual partisan roles are reversed, it’s jarring — in a pleasant sort of way.