When I first began practicing law, there were still very few women in the profession. One of the very first to have broken the gender barrier was a local divorce lawyer who had become legendary (not in a good way) in the legal community. Whether she’d become embittered by barriers she’d faced, or was just a bit “off,” there were multiple stories of courtroom appearances and client clashes. My favorite arose during her representation of the husband in a nasty divorce, when she explained to the court that the wife’s personality was so unpleasant that it had finally caused her poor husband to stab her.
That old story came to mind because I’ve been reading various pundits’ assignments of blame for Congressional dysfunction. Evidently, it’s all Obama’s fault that members of the legislature are refusing to do much of anything. He hasn’t “played hardball” or “twisted arms,” or maybe he hasn’t “schmoozed” enough…but whatever the tactical deficiency, it’s clearly his fault that the Republicans hate him and refuse to pass any bill–no matter how reasonable or necessary, no matter that the measure was previously part of the GOP’s own agenda–lest it be seen as compromising with the White House.
The fact that current congressional intransigence stems not from philosophical differences but from petty politics, visceral antagonism and more than a little racism has hardly been a well-kept secret. Pat Toomey, the Republican Senator who cosponsored the recently defeated background check bill, confirmed this state of affairs when he admitted that a number of Republicans had voted against the bill purely out of animus toward the President, and unwillingness to give him a “win.”
Whatever Obama’s strengths and weaknesses, we send people to Congress to focus on sound policy and the common good of the American public. A certain amount of political game-playing is inevitable, but when partisanship dictates every action taken, when calculations of political advantage trump all else, the system is broken. Lawmakers may think they are beating Obama–but they are really betraying the American people.
Blaming the President for the childish behavior of the legislative branch is like blaming the wife whose flawed personality “made” her husband stab her.