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Debate Irony: “The Most Polarizing President Ever” Talks About Bipartisanship

- October 4, 2012

THE CLAIM: Obama: "My Philosophy Has Been I Will Take Ideas From Anybody, Democrat Or Republican." OBAMA: "But look, my philosophy has been I will take ideas from anybody, Democrat or Republican, as long as they're advancing the cause of making middle-class families stronger and giving ladders of opportunity into the middle class." (President Barack Obama, Presidential Debate, Denver, CO, 10/3/12)

THE FACTS: In Obama's Initial Meetings With Congressional Leaders, His Response To Republican Questions Was "Look I Won. I'm In Charge Here." "He displayed 'two sides' of his personality in early meetings with congressional leaders, Woodward said. 'There's this divided-man quality to President Obama always. Initially he meets with the congressional leaders, he says you know, 'We're going to be accommodating, we're going to listen, we're going to talk, we're going to compromise,' Woodward said. 'But then they -- Republicans ask some questions and challenge him a little bit and he says, 'Look I won. I'm in charge here,'' Woodward continued. 'And the Republicans feel totally isolated and ostracized. And this was the beginning of a war.'" (Rick Klein, "Woodward: 'Gaps' In Obama's Leadership Contributed To Debt Deal Collapse," ABC News, 9/10/12)

The Washington Post : "Obama: The Most Polarizing President. Ever." (Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake, "Obama: The Most Polarizing President. Ever," The Washington Post, 1/30/12)

FactCheck.org: "[I]t's Simply A Fact That The President Failed At 'Bringing Democrats And Republicans Together.'" "To be sure, the president did sign the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, but it wasn't enacted by 'bringing Democrats and Republicans together.' The bill passed the Senate on Dec. 24, 2009, by a vote of 60-39, without any Republicans voting for it. And when the House passed its version of the bill almost three months later, by a vote of 219-212, it too garnered no support from Republicans. We won't offer any opinion about whether one side is more to blame than the other for that, but it's simply a fact that the president failed at 'bringing Democrats and Republicans together.'" (D'Angelo Gore, "Promises, Promises," Fact Check.org, 1/4/12)

Polarization Is "As Deep As It Has Been In Modern Times." "Today Obama's words sound quaint, even naive. Instead of bipartisanship, there is polarization as deep as it has been in modern times." (Dan Balz, "Obama Did Not Change Washington, Was There A Way Around United Republican Opposition?" The Washington Post, 9/1/12)

"The Political System Seems Frozen And More Resistant To Compromise Than Ever." "Instead of cooperation, there is confrontation. Instead of civility, there is rudeness. The political system seems frozen and more resistant to compromise than ever. Two months before the 2012 election, the campaign has become an all-or-nothing battle over the future direction of the country." (Dan Balz, "Obama Did Not Change Washington, Was There A Way Around United Republican Opposition?" The Washington Post, 9/1/12)

  • Obama's "Advisers Cannot Point To A Clear Strategy For Trying To Create A Climate Of Cooperation." "There are also questions about how hard Obama tried. His advisers cannot point to a clear strategy for trying to create a climate of cooperation - other than their belief that the support he won in the election and the economic crisis would create those conditions." (Dan Balz, "Obama Did Not Change Washington, Was There A Way Around United Republican Opposition?" The Washington Post, 9/1/12)
  • Obama "Missed Or Passed Up Opportunities To Show His Willingness To Challenge The Status Quo." "He also missed or passed up opportunities to show his willingness to challenge the status quo. And there is not much evidence that, as things turned sour, there was a fallback strategy for how to change the climate." (Dan Balz, "Obama Did Not Change Washington, Was There A Way Around United Republican Opposition?" The Washington Post, 9/1/12)

Obama Has Admitted That Washington Is Stuck With "More Of The Same," And "Maybe A Little Worse." CNN's WOLF BLITZER: "When we spoke here end of 2008, 'hope and change.' You know what I see in Washington still to this day? OBAMA: "More of the same." BLITZER: "The same old same old." OBAMA: "Yeah." BLITZER: "A lot of bickering, backstabbing." OBAMA: "Maybe a little worse." (CNN's " The Situation Room," 8/16/11)

"And, Far From Breaking A Generation-Long Partisan Standoff In Washington, Obama's Presidency Has Been Almost Entirely Defined By It." (John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin, "DNC 2012: Barack Obama, The Conventional President," Politico, 9/3/12)

The Washington Post 's Dan Balz: "That the country is polarized is beyond question. Obama has proven to be a divisive president, despite his insistence that he is open to compromise and accommodation." (Dan Balz, "Roberts's Health-Care Ruling Sends A Message To Politicians," The Washington Post , 6/30/12)

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin Says Obama's "Tenure Is Viewed Through The Prism Of His Failure To Transcend The Deep Divisions In Washington." "Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has written several presidential histories and has come to know Obama personally, said the 44th president's policies - such as a stimulus package that may have averted another Depression and an overhaul of health care policy - most likely will be seen as profoundly far-reaching. But in contrast to the soaring expectations Obama himself helped set, Goodwin said his tenure is viewed through the prism of his failure to transcend the deep divisions in Washington." (John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin, "DNC 2012: Barack Obama, The Conventional President," Politico, 9/3/12)

  • Goodwin: "The Country Assumed What He Meant By [Being] Transformational Was That He Would Get The Two Sides To Come Together Because Our First Image Of A Leader Just Sticks." "'The country assumed what he meant by [being] transformational was that he would get the two sides to come together because our first image of a leader just sticks,' Goodwin said, citing his famous 2004 Democratic convention speech when he called for an end to mindless partisanship." (John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin, "DNC 2012: Barack Obama, The Conventional President," Politico, 9/3/12)

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