Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt was in town this week talking guns, mental health and World War I centennials.
Then a reporter asked about a topic that appeared to ratchet up the senator’s blood pressure: President Obama’s relations with Congress.
“Both Democrats and Republicans say the president just really doesn’t reach out and try to develop the kind of relationships you need if you’re going to make things happen legislatively,” Blunt said.
That was only his opening ante.
A reporter asked, “That hasn’t changed?” Obama has been knocked by members of both parties for failing to develop strong alliances in Congress.
Said Blunt, “I don’t see it changing.”
Now he was really getting worked up, and he moved to Obama’s news conference this week in which the president discussed the ongoing debt-limit debate.
“If you’re the president, you can’t just say in an authoritative way, ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’ If you’re the dictator, you can say that. If you’re the king, you can say that. If you’re the omnipotent power, you can say that.”
But Obama has to work with Republicans who still control the House. Yet he demanded anew on Monday that Congress unconditionally increase the debt limit. No negotiations, the president said. No agreement to raise the ceiling in exchange for an equal portion of spending cuts, even though that’s what’s happened before.
Just raise the limit, Obama said.
“They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” Obama said.
Problem is, Blunt and the Republicans don’t take kindly to dictates. They don’t take kindly to Obama setting all the rules. It’s a tone thing that rubs them raw — that professorial attitude Obama has been criticized for.
“How do you get anything done if you immediately start telling the other side that has to work with you, ‘I’m not going to work with you on this?’” Blunt said. “Now what kind of start is that to a new administration?”
You might think that Blunt has a great point. Or you might think he’s flat wrong, now that even some Republicans on Friday inched toward Obama’s direction. All that is beside the point.
What’s concerning is Blunt’s attitude. The senator’s known as a “reasonable” Republican who understands compromise. But he’s clearly beyond frustrated with the president just days before Obama’s second inauguration.
This is supposed to be a time of fresh starts and new beginnings. But it’s not happening. What that bodes for the continuing fiscal cliff talks and the toughest of negotiations over the future course of American government isn’t pretty.
Look out ahead. To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.