The refusals by House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to accept President Barack Obama’s invitation to the White House are troubling on several levels.
First and foremost, it’s disrespectful. Both Republican leaders claimed they had scheduling conflicts, ignoring the long held Washington credo that when the president calls you drop everything and respond promptly. If he invites you to the White House, you go.
The snub also carries with it the taint of passive-aggressive racism. Like when Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., yelled “you lie” during Obama’s health care speech in September 2009, this and several other slights have been put upon Obama.
Politically, it is the epitome of arrogance for Republicans to think that their winning back the House and gaining a few seats in the Senate gives them the power to direct policy for the United States.
When American history is defined you don’t hear people talking about who held Congress. You hear the Reagan era, the Kennedy era or the FDR era, not the Tip O’Neill era, Denny Hastert era or Newt Gingrich era.
With the midterm elections less than 24 hours old, it seemed that every GOP lawmaker who had a camera pointed his or her way claimed the Republican surge gave him or her some sort of mandate.
For example, they said the election showed that the American people reject Obama’s health care reform package.
According to more than one poll, that is a complete falsehood.
A recent poll showed that 53 percent of Americans are in favor of health care reform and many of them want Obama to take it even farther to something like a public option or Medicare for all.
This is where Obama figures in this equation.
The president can’t afford to continue to listen to contradictory advice he’s getting from inside and outside of the White House.
Obama has to lead and if the Republicans want to obstruct, let them. There are many ways a president can get things done without Congress.
The president can issue executive orders and use policy-making powers through federal agencies that already have sweeping mandates under law.
Obama has to make it known immediately that he’s still the sheriff in town.
This will throw the pressure back to the GOP. If they stand fast and let Obama rule through veto and executive power, they will learn in 2012 that the electorate didn’t vote for them or their failed policies, they voted against the Democrats, they voted their anger and frustration.
There are two years left and still plenty to do, Obama need only to have the will to do them.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)