Hot Air

I don’t want to become a crank about this, but as someone whose job is to comment many times a day on developments in American politics, I think this sort of headline (above a story by Janet Hook for the Wall Street Journal) needs some full-scale mockery: “Bipartisan Breeze Wafts Through Congress.”

Hook’s hook, so to speak, is of course the Manchin-Toomey “compromise” on guns and the “Gang” activity on immigration reform. The former, as I argued yesterday, is a baby step in one chamber of Congress that may not survive a second filibuster, much less the House. The latter, which so far (again, in the Senate only) has produced a ramshackle framework full of tricks and triggers and deliberate obfuscation of its goals, isn’t even a baby step just yet, particularly when compared to the actual legislation proposed by George W. Bush years ago that is now considered satanic by a majority of Republicans.

Hook is honest enough to make it clear this “breeze” doesn’t extend to the big fiscal issues, though she does labor to read something into the occasional GOP treatment of the president’s Chained CPI proposal as an opening ante that might produce serious talks if he considers much bigger entitlement benefit cuts while dropping all this crazy talk about revenues. If she (and others celebrating the “new mood” in Congress) expanded their purview to issues like health care, they’d have to curb their enthusiasm further.

I’m not one of those progressives who opposes bipartisanship on principle, or thinks Democrats are in danger of losing “partisan differentiation” whenever they fail to match conservative savagery with their own. I just don’t see it much happening just yet. Pretending otherwise is much more likely to reduce rather than increase prospects for something real, which will require a mighty wind, not a “breeze,” blowing through a Republican Party that has taken to heart Grover Norquist’s famous maxim that “bipartisanship is another name for date rape.”

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.