February 15, 2010

Howard Kurtz asks his panel if the gridlock in Washington is just business as usual or "a political version of the snowpocalypse". Of course conservative columnist Debra Saunders thinks that the media is picking on the poor little old GOP even though they have as so many people have reported done an absolutely unprecidented amount of obstruction since Barack Obama took office.

Keli Goff almost sounds like she's going to make some sense in response when she talks about the riffs in the Democratic Party as well until she decides to throw the progressive wing of the party under the bus instead of recognizing the fact that there are corporatist Dems that may as well be Republicans to contend with.

Lynn Sweet adds a bit of sanity to the conversation and reminds Saunders and Kurtz about some minor detail called the filibuster rule.

KURTZ: So is the press prepared to assign blame for this endless gridlock or just report it as a natural paralysis, a political version of the snowpocalypse that has hit D.C. this week?

Joining us in Atlanta, Debra Saunders, columnist for "The San Francisco Chronicle." In New York, Keli Goff, political blogger for TheLoop21.com. And here in Washington, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun-Times."

Lynn Sweet, Obama keeps talking about bipartisanship. He wants to meet with Republicans, hold hands, sing songs. I don't know.

Is the press right to be reacting so skeptically?

LYNN SWEET: Well, sure, because nothing in Congress has happened in a bipartisan year for the first year of the Obama White House, no major legislation that has passed has done so in any bipartisan roll call. So, this upcoming February 25th bipartisan meeting that Obama is calling is a chance to see, once again -- and I guess the press will evaluate -- is it real bipartisanship or just some kind of a showcase?

KURTZ: Or a big photo-op, or the appearance of bipartisanship.

Debra Saunders, the tone in the media about the Republicans, it seems to me, is that this is the party of no, and the leaders aren't really interested in a deal on anything, even a quick compromise jobs bill collapse. And they've got a much smaller version now.

So, is this fair or unfair, the way the Republicans are being treated?

DEBRA SAUNDERS: Well, I think it's unfair. In fact, every time I see Barack Obama get up and talk about petty politics and how he wants to be bipartisan, I know he's going to be pointing the finger at the party that doesn't control the White House, doesn't control the Senate and doesn't control the House.

And then I just see basically a lot of media people just sitting back and watching him do it and talking about how the GOP is obstructionist. I'm not saying that there isn't an element of truth to that, but who has the power? So why are we blaming the people who don't?

KURTZ: Well, one reason, I suppose, Keli Goff, would be that the Republicans haven't barely provided more than one or two votes for anything the president has tried to do, beginning with the economic stimulus package. But the Republicans will say that, particularly, Nancy Pelosi just runs rough shot over them in the House. Some people think the Republicans did that when they controlled.

So what's your take?

KELI GOFF: Well, to Debra's point, I mean, something that I've written about, Howard, is the fact that I think the GOP hasn't actually been Barack Obama's biggest problem his first year in office. I actually would argue that it's been progressives.

They've sort of backed him into a corner. I think there's this fearful perspective in terms of what can happen to him in a primary. And so there is a perception, whether fair or not, I think, among a lot of people that he's been sort of backed into a corner --


KURTZ: So are you saying the media have missed the story and that, really, the story is a bit of a civil war within the Democratic Party and not Republicans not wanting to give this president any legislative achievements?

GOFF: I think the answer is it's both. I don't think it's either/or. I think it's actually both. And I think, though, that it's a sexier news story to say that it's the GOP versus Obama, as opposed to saying that there is a bit inter-party warfare going on here.

But, Howard, look, we have to look at the poll numbers. I mean, the White House is actually smart. The poll numbers show that the majority of Americans do see it that way. I mean, 62 percent of Americans now think that Obama is trying harder to work with the GOP, and the same number I think that the GOP is not trying to work with him. That's according to the poll that came out a couple of days ago.

KURTZ: But they're also fed up with the fact that not much is getting done.

And you have been shaking your head, Lynn Sweet. So --

SWEET: I'm shaking my head because here is a point I want to remind everyone -- that in the Senate, Republicans are in the minority, but they have the power. Look at the power any senator has to put a hold on legislation. So, it's not quite accurate to say that the Democrats alone have all the power because of the way that the Senate is set up and the rules --

KURTZ: And in the Senate you need 60 votes --

SWEET: Or a filibuster.

KURTZ: -- the Democrats no longer have 60 votes.

SWEET: Right.

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