Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who apparently has the institutional memory of a newborn child, says that Donald Trump has done “more for bipartisanship in eight days [than former President Obama] did in eight years.”
“I can’t think of any time when [Obama] made a deal with anyone from the opposing party,” added Sanders, in her effort to defend Trump’s negotiations and deal with Democrats on an extension to the debt ceiling.”
Either Sanders was under heavy medication between 2008 and 2016 and wasn’t able to follow political news, or she is an even bigger liar than Sean Spicer, her predecessor – who admitted to Jimmy Kimmel this week he regularly lied in order to represent the president’s point of view.
The truth, which is easily verifiable, is that Obama tried harder than most presidents to be bipartisan from the day he was elected. He constantly faced obstruction and deceit from Republicans who were more interested in partisanship than citizenship in those years.
Mitch McConnell, then the Senate Minority Leader, was vocal in his plan to hurt President Obama in any way that he and his cohorts could conceive.
McConnell told the National Journal as Obama took office: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
McConnell failed that goal, but he did not fail to keep his promise to never work with the president on a single piece of legislation and to oppose him at every turn.
John Boehner, who performed the job now held by Paul Ryan as the head Republican in the House, was equally blunt about plans for Obama’s agenda. “We’re going to do everything – and I mean everything we can do – to kill it, stop it, slow it down.”
Still, to his credit, President Obama did everything he could to take a bipartisan approach, occasionally to the chagrin of his fellow Democrats. He felt he had no choice since he faced a Republican controlled House for six years of his tenure, and a Republican controlled Senate for the final two.
Take, for example, his cabinet selection: can you imagine Trump picking any Democrats to fill those roles? Never, even if they were billionaires like the rest of his collection of unqualified misfits.
However, Obama took the high road when doing the same.
Three times in the first year, in fact.
First, he retained George W. Bush’s defense secretary Robert Gates, saying it was an effort to have continuity as he wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Then he picked Republican Congressman Ray LaHood to head the Department of Transportation and Senator Judd Gregg to be his commerce secretary.
In his early days in office, Obama appointed three retired four-star military officers to top government posts, which was considered unprecedented in any Democratic administration. Though this is typical for Republicans, like when Trump went out of his way to appoint military official General Kelly, his Chief of Staff.
Obama even went along with Republican demands to get the Democratic governor of New Hampshire to appoint a Republican to replace Senator Gregg, even though it meant the Democrats would not have a bullet proof 60 vote majority in the Senate.
In 2010, Obama signed a bill created by Republicans that extended the Bush era tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits and cut Social Security taxes for a year.
In 2012, Obama pushed a program for job creation created primarily by Republicans.
Despite McConnell’s bad faith efforts, Obama worked with him in 2013 to avoid triggering a “fiscal cliff” – a tax increase for many Americans as the Bush tax cuts were ending.
Even the president’s signature health care bill, which came to be known as ObamaCare, was done only after several years of efforts at bipartisan input, hearings, and discussions across the aisle.
The Republicans decided instead to try and use health care to destroy the Obama presidency as they had attempted with Clinton’s failed health care effort in the 90s.
After ObamaCare passed, David Frum, a speechwriter for Bush, wrote that from the beginning of the process the Republicans did all they could to wreck the health care efforts:
“We made a strategic decision, unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. this would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994…This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended up with none.”
You can imagine how that fed the grudge the Republicans had for ObamaCare even as it meant millions of Americans got health insurance, many for the first time. Repealing ObamaCare became a Republican mantra, even though millions would be hurt in the process.
There were many other efforts by Obama to be bipartisan. He appointed a Supreme Court judge, Sonia Sotomayor, who was considered a mainstream jurist, to appease Republicans. Even GOP Senator Lindsay Graham praised the decision.
Additionally, Obama endorsed charter schools while simultaneously funding and supporting public schools (take THAT Betsy DeVos!) and did many other things to try and unify the nation.
The Republicans, though, had none of it. They blocked Obama’s efforts to be bipartisan at every turn and never appreciated any of his efforts to work across the aisle – often blaming him and his cabinet for the failed attempts.
So, Sanders’s claim that Trump is bipartisan because, in a desperate bid for any legislative victory, he impulsively made a budget deal to avoid a government shutdown is nothing short of a lie. If anything, this strained reach across the aisle is a signal he isn’t smart or clever, let alone a good legislator or loyal to his own party (or anyone but himself, for that matter).
As for Sanders, she truly follows in the tradition of Spicer as an apologist for the president, who is willing to say anything to make him look good… even when it is at best, “fake news.”
For her to slur President Obama, who was beaten down for his bipartisan efforts, but still kept coming back and trying again, is a further blight on her image. She owes President Obama an apology, but I am guessing that will never happen.